Harbour Restoration Society Launches Mangrove Removal Petition
A petition urging the Northland Regional Council (NRC) to relax its regional plan rules in relation to mangrove removal was launched at a public meeting called by the Mangawhai Harbour Restoration Society (MHRS) in early January.
The Society is urging the NRC to adopt mangrove removal provisions in its Regional Plan similar to those adopted by Auckland City in its Unitary Plan.
The meeting, attended by about 80 residents and ratepayers, was told that the MHRS had spent more than $400,000 on lawyers, planners and scientists, and it had taken more than four years to get approval to remove 17 hectares of mangroves from the Mangawhai Harbour.
With more than 60 hectares of mangroves remaining, the Society did not want to repeat that time-consuming and expensive exercise.
Society executive member Peter Nicholas told the meeting that the Northland Regional Plan made mangrove removal a “non-complying activity.” In the Auckland Unitary Plan, mangrove removal was a “controlled or discretionary activity.”
Major mangrove removal projects were now underway throughout the Auckland City boundaries, and in some cases the Auckland Council itself had paid for the removal projects.
Mr Nicholas said that an NRC committee was currently considering an update to its regional plan. A first draft would be published by June or July 2016.
“We want to be sure the committee hears the voice of Mangawhai people that all mangroves in Mangawhai need to be removed and the harbour restored to its 1946 mangrove-free state,” he said.
“The Harbour Restoration Society has a proven track record of harbour stewardship which includes three successful removal projects. The continued
success of the restoration depends on the tidal prism (volume of water exchanged through the inlet on each tide) being maintained and/or improved.”
“Unmanaged mangrove expansion in this sand-dominated harbour threatens the tidal prism as well as displaces valuable habitats within the harbour,” Mr Nicholas told the meeting.
Recent mangrove removal projects had not resulted in significant turbidity effects, and observation of mangrove removal areas suggested bird life, which had been excluded from the areas, had now returned to forage with shorelines recovering to a sandier environment.
The MHRS is soon to begin research on the impact further mangrove removal will have on the estuary’s birdlife, principally the banded rail. It has begun discussions with an ornithologist from a New Zealand university to conduct research on a range of issues which were likely to arise when mangroves were removed close to the banded rail’s habitat, the rush marsh.
“We believe research completed in our most recent Resource Consent, and subsequent Environment Court hearing has proven without doubt that mangrove removal had no impact on the fairy tern population,“ said Mr Nicholas. “Now we need to focus on any likely impact on other birdlife.”
The MHRS is hoping to obtain the support of 95 percent of Mangawhai residents and ratepayers for its petition. It is planning to deliver the results to the Northland Regional Council by the end of March 2016.
“We want to be sure the committee hears the voice of Mangawhai people that all mangroves in Mangawhai need to be removed and the harbour restored to its 1946 mangrove-free state.”
- MHRS executive Peter Nicholas