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Petition likely to get NRC support


A petition signed by more than 2,100 Mangawhai residents and ratepayers seeking support for relaxed rules for the removal of mangroves in the Mangawhai Harbour, was likely to get political support from Northern Regional Councillors, local NRC member Craig Brown told a deputation from the Mangawhai Harbour Restoration Society (MHRS) in early April.

Executive members of the MHRS along with a large group of volunteers collected the petition signatures over a three month period.

The support for the petition represents by far the majority of Mangawhai residents and ratepayers.

MHRS chairman Trevor Downey and executive members Lynn Prictor and Peter Nicholas delivered the petition to Mr Brown and NRC chairman Bill Shepherd.

The petition asks the NRC in its revised Northland Regional Plan, which is due for its first draft release in three months, to change the removal of mangroves from a “non-complying” activity to a “controlled, discretionary or permitted” activity, similar to what is contained in the draft Auckland City Unitary Plan.

Mr Brown said that the petition was a “marvelous effort” by the Society.

The MHRS had been at the forefront of mangrove removal efforts in Mangawhai and had been warning the NRC that, without removal efforts, mangroves would slowly take over the harbour.

“This petition is an overwhelming indication that the vast majority of Mangawhai people are interested in the damage that mangroves are doing,“ said Mr Brown.

“The MHRS is asking the NRC for some help to take a more lenient attitude to mangrove removal and we have sympathy for this at a political level,“ he said.

Mr Brown said that the revised Regional Plan was due for its first draft release in June or July this year.

The draft was being formulated by the Regional Policy Committee of the NRC of which he was the deputy-chairman. All NRC councillors were members of the committee.

“This petition is just what I want at this point in the committee’s deliberations,” said Mr Brown.

“I believe it is likely to get support as I believe there is support on the committee to make things easier when it comes to mangrove removal.

Mr Brown said that he had seen sand and birdlife returning to areas of Mangawhai where mangroves had been removed.

“The residents see it and I see, “he said.

The petition will now be handed to Chairman Bill Shepherd to present to the Regional Policy Committee.

Mr Shepherd said the petition “was very timely” and having something of “substance” such as the petition would enable support at the Regional Policy Committee to be more easily obtained.

As well as seeking changes to mangrove removal “activity”, the petition points out that the Mangawhai harbour is unique in Northland as it was a sand-dominated harbour unlike others that were mud-based.

This “geographically unique sand dominated harbour” had allowed the MHRS to undertake three environmentally successful and socially positive mangrove removal projects since 2004, the petition said.

“We urge the NRC to allow further mangrove removal to return the Mangawhai Harbour to its 1946 state in order to restore valuable habitats, amenity values and improve the tidal prism,” the petition continued.

Trevor Downey said that from its canvassing for the petition, the MHRS believed that support came from more than 90 percent of all people approached.

This support was across the board from residents and ratepayers of more than 18 years of age.

“We hope that this petition will now lead to a new mangrove removal policy more acceptable and less costly to the people of Mangawhai when the draft Regional Plan is published by the Council later this year,“ he said.

Mr Downey said that the recent removal project for 19 hectares of mangroves had cost about $400,000 in legal, environmental and other consultant and fees, as the Society was forced to submit a case to the Environment Court to obtain approval.

“These costs on an on-going basis are unsustainable and unacceptable when there is such support for further mangrove removal projects,” he said.

He said the MHRS was currently undertaking a number of environmental studies relating to further mangrove removal projects.

“We still need to conduct the science to establish the impact on the flora and fauna from further mangrove removal.”

“Nothing in this petition will stop us from being responsible in this area,” he said.

Mr Downey thanked the large number of volunteers who had assisted with petition signature collection.

MANGROVES: MHRS Executive member Peter Nicholas handing over the petition with 2,140 signatures to NRC Councillor Craig Brown.

“This petition is just what I want at this point in the committee’s deliberations… I believe there is support on the committee to make things easier when it comes to mangrove removal.”

Craig Brown, NRC councillor

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