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Letters to the Editor


Kaipara District Council has instructed local agents Barfoot & Thompson to sell off half a hectare of unique, ecologically significant wetland at 25-29 Wharfedale Crescent, without community consultation. It appears that the council has acted with undue haste in an endeavour to quietly force it through without public knowledge.

Key points from KDC Minutes of 23 November 2015 state: “Many in the community would not be aware that Council owns these properties so would be unlikely to have a strong view.”

How wrong can they be! Many residents are aware of the land and have had the feeling that it is a reserve for the benefit of all. Many will indeed have very strong views that the council should never sell this land.

The KDC Minutes also state: “This decision is not a significant one under Council’s Policy therefore it is not necessary to consult with the community on this decision as Council already has a sound understanding of the views and preferences of the persons likely to be affected by or interested in the matter (s82(4)(b) Local Government Act 2002) and an immediate, quick response, decision is desirable or it is not reasonably practicable to engage.”

This land is deemed by the community to have very high amenity and ecological values. It is a haven for a wide variety of native flora, fauna and wildlife, including eels and abundant birdlife such as herons and tuis. It is, in every sense of the term a native wetland, and deserves the protection that such scarce and vitally important taonga require. In fact, in a February 2014 report commissioned by the Council it states: “This parcel is undulating in nature with steep areas and contains both exotic and native vegetation, together with an extensive wetland system located at the bottom of a small basin which may contain a spring.”

It has been disclosed that a ratepayer who had offered to carry out an ecological survey and environmental study of the land at his own expense was not only refused permission to do so, but was threatened with adverse consequences if he ventured onto the land at all. His attempts to verify the authority for that edict by contacting the acting CEO MacPherson have met with her customary silence and refusal to communicate. Similarly, he has been refused permission to carry out a geotechnical survey of the site.

These properties are unique in every way and should be retained for the benefit of all in Mangawhai and our visitors.

Sian Clements


A person who is not, and never has been, a member of either the Mangawhai Ratepayers & Residents Association (MRRA) or its executive committee has expressed a number of opinions in your columns about why the MRRA took legal action and what its members expected to gain from so doing.

Those opinions, like all opinions formed without consulting the facts, are hopelessly, and it would appear, maliciously wrong and in my view provide a smokescreen for council-led activity in the region which they would rather the public were unaware of, like the sale of reserve land in Mangawhai Heads which would indeed cause a public outcry.

An opinion was also expressed about the future intentions of the current chair of the MRRA. The person concerned has been in the role for over five years now, through extremely turbulent times. That is a long time to serve on any committee, and his intention to relinquish the post at some point in the future was signaled to the membership and to the Focus. It is consistent with all principles of good governance to change the leadership of every organisation from time to time. One of the great tragedies of life in Kaipara is that the council omitted to do that in the case of (Jack) McKerchar, until millions of dollars of ratepayer money had disappeared.

Making comparisons between the current chair of the MRRA and McKerchar may be amusing for your writer, but it is unlikely to enhance his credibility in the eyes of your readers. Another slight but perhaps significant difference is that McKerchar got paid for every second he spent there. None of the MRRA committee has ever received one cent for the very large amounts of time they have devoted to their work on the community’s behalf.

As it happens, the role of chairman of the MRRA is one that is determined democratically. On Sunday January 17 the membership met and a committee was appointed with three members standing down by rotation and being eligible to re-stand if nominated, seconded and duly elected by democratic process. The office bearers – chair, deputy chair, treasurer, honorary secretary – were all reappointed to their roles by the incoming committee. The present chair, Bruce Rogan, has said that if a point is reached where the role that he was particularly focused on (litigation) comes to an end, that would be a very good time to effect an orderly transition to new leadership.

Even the Kaipara commissioners are talking about bowing out in 2016, but whether they will be able to forgo the huge emoluments is yet to be seen. The smart money is now on the government announcing an indefinite extension of the commissioners’ role just in case democracy creeps back in and makes life uncomfortable for some profiteers in our midst. There will be an election, of just enough councillors to ensure that the government remains in total (-itarian) control. Environment Canterbury will be the model.

Are the commissioners’ pet panelists on their short list of suitable candidates for the new post-2016 Council? And will your most frequent correspondent to the Focus and damning critic of the MRRA be top of the list?

Barbara Pengelly
Secretary, MRRA


Dear Dr. Ian Greenwood: Still you get it wrong.

The question for modern waste water treatment is not “on site” or “central”. All over the world they have found that the most cost-efficient solution is not to mix all together but to collect grey water from the bath, yellow water (urine) and feaces separate. This can be done on site, in clusters or central. There exist simple systems for holiday batches and high tech solutions.

When we collect bathroom water, urine and faeces separately, it is easy to avoid pollution and many communities in the world demonstrate that urine is a good cheap fertiliser.

God has designed us with two holes and what he has divided we should not put together. Don’t mix it. It’s that easy

Christian Simon


May I respectfully suggest that before Mangawhai residents sign the Mangawhai Harbour Restoration Society (MHRS) petition to remove all mangroves, that they do their research. There is a great deal of misconception about mangroves with a strong and vocal group (MHRS) believing mangroves are an unwanted nuisance and their spread is unreasonable.

Mangroves in New Zealand comprise a single native species (Avicennia marina var. australasica). They are an important part of our coastal vegetation and provide a three-dimensional habitat for a large range of native fish, birds and invertebrates. Regular tidal inundation of mangrove stands is likely to provide wading birds that utilise the mangrove habitat for roosting and foraging, with some protection from predation by mustelids and cats. Mangroves also play an important role in natural coastal processes such as shoreline protection and trapping of sediment.

Arguments put forward by the MHRS that the areas where mangroves have been removed now has bird life returning to the area has no scientific basis and neither has the claim that the area is recovering to a more sandier structure. All research shows in fact that a dense root mass is often found just below the sediment surface. The change to a sandier non-mangrove state will require at least 10 years for erosion of muddy sediment and dispersal of remaining mangrove biomass. In sheltered locations, change to a sandier location appears unlikely (Auckland Research and Policy Bulletin, June 2015.)

An unforeseen effect by the perpetrators of mangrove removal (both legal and illegal) can be observed in Ruakaka. There is now significantly more erosion and some residents have been building sea walls and depositing waste concrete to

prevent banks eroding. The dense root systems of mangrove forests provide coastal protection and trap sediments flowing down rivers and off the land. This helps stabilise the coastline and prevents erosion from waves and storms. In areas where mangroves have been cleared, coastal damage from waves and high seas are much more severe.

Robbie Jones
One Tree Point


Thank you Roy Vaughan for your thoughts. The committee has been working towards a better management plan for the dredge and its ancillary equipment. You are right, having the equipment sitting in the salt in the down time months is not a great idea.

The Mangawhai Harbour Restoration Society (MHRS) last year built a trailer to get the tug out of the water when it is not being used. The maintenance cost of the tug has dropped substantially. With this in mind there has been a proposal to build a trailer to haul the dredge out of the water in the down time months when birds are nesting and no dredging is allowed.

As for the dredging of the bar, this is definitely the ambulance under the cliff approach as it was continually dredged "last century" and has returned to be the same. I think a south bund wall on the bar would be a much better proposal to look at and work towards so that the water that comes out of the harbour is contained to flush out the entrance instead of spreading out like it does now. A bit like putting your finger over the end of a hose to wash the dirt off your concrete.

The more water that is going in and out of the bar will help keep the bar open. Every cubic meter of sand we put out of the harbour means four cubic meters of water has to go over the bar every day – therefore the more mangroves that go the better .

We don't need a fresh look at the harbor. We are extremely lucky to have some of the best marine hydrologists in the world – Andre and Robyn La Bonte – helping Mangawhai.

As for bureaucracy, we all know how bureaucracy works – very slow and usually expensive.

The farmers are getting a bit of a hiding at the moment about all this nutrient run-off. Most farmers are thrifty (tight) and after scientists informed us that a lot of our fertiliser was ending up in the drain, most looked into ways of minimising it. The paradise ducks, swans, geese and the like have polluted waterways .There is one four acre stock water dam out Oneriri (Kaipara) that has been so polluted by thousands of birds that stock cannot drink out of it. Have a look at a tree that the shags are roosting in and you will see what I mean.

I think the MHRS has done extremely well for the people of Mangawhai with the funds that they have had available. Property values in Mangawhai and

surrounding areas would not be so buoyant if the harbour returned to the stagnant cesspit that it was before the Big Dig.

I agree that now is the time Kaipara District Council needs to ask the people of Mangawhai how they want this harbour to look in 20 to 50 years time, ie. kayak areas, wakeboard areas, yacht racing areas, waka ama areas, an island with a stadium for public watching of sports.

Grant Stewart


On behalf of the Mangawhai Harbour Restoration Society (MHRS), I wish to correct a number of inaccuracies in a letter from correspondent Roy Vaughan (Letters to the editor, Mangawhai Focus, January 11.)

Statement by Mr Vaughan: “The best way out of the Mangawhai Harbour Restoration Society’s woes is to sell the dredge.”

Response: The MHRS is not in financial trouble, nor does it have “financial woes.” After spending $350,000 this financial year removing mangroves in the upper harbour, the Society still retains a bank balance of approximately $140,000. Five-year forecasts prepared late last year indicate the Society will remain cash positive over that period. The Society’s financial position, which is audited, is published annually and made available at the AGM held in July each year.

The dredge is an important asset for the MHRS and enables the Society to dredge throughout the harbour without relying on third parties. It does not cost around $140,000 a year to man, fuel and maintain as stated by Mr Vaughan.

Our estimates are that the annual operational costs of the dredge are approximately $100,000 per annum, allowing for R&M accruals in years of low maintenance. This means the dredge accounts for about one-third of the MHRS’s annual income.

Statement by Mr Vaughan: “If the dredge were sold it may fetch sufficient money to dredge the bar and also remove mangroves with a suitable self-powered dredge.”

Response: There is no need for the MHRS to sell the dredge to fund the next stage of mangrove removal. It was never stated at the meeting that MHRS would be financially unable to remove the mangroves remaining seaward of the causeway, or the mangroves in the upper harbour. What was stated was that MHRS wanted a simpler and less costly consent procedure from the Northland Regional Council.

The meeting was also shown 2015 GPS soundings of the harbour right out to the bar. This shows it is not necessary to dredge the bar at this time. The inlet is self-maintaining and dynamically stable. The two factors that could negatively influence that would be allowing rabbits to destroy the dune vegetation that retains sand from blowing in the harbour and infilling of the harbour by mangroves, which would reduce the tidal prism that flushes the channel and keeps the inlet open.

Statement by Mr Vaughan: “The MHRS request for a hike in its level on rates comes at a very bad time. The Restoration Society needs to cut its cloth to what it can afford not what it wants.”

Response: The MHRS has not, nor does it intend to, seek an increase in the $77.80 paid by each ratepayer. Executive members are unanimous in their opposition to such a suggestion. We have no idea where Mr Vaughan got this impression as there was no suggestion at the public meeting on January 6 that an increase in the MHRS levy was being sought or even likely.

Statement by Mr Vaughan: “No effort seems to have been made to charter out Mangawhai’s dredge. There was, and is, dredging business out there and would fill the… gap between running costs and income… .”

Response: Approximately 10 years ago the communities of Omapere and Orewa were having shoreline erosion problems. One solution to those problems would have been transferring sand from shoals within their respective harbour and estuary to the shoreline. One method of doing that would have been to use a dredge. Therefore, the MHRS did enter into discussions with those communities but nothing eventuated. In addition, transport of the dredge by sea or land to those locations was a significant concern. Currently one of the most important roles of the Mangawhai dredge is to continue to strengthen the Mangawhai inner harbour bund wall with dredgings.

Statement by Mr Vaughan: “Why should the MHRS assume the Northland Regional Council’s and Department of Conservation’s legal obligation to care for the harbour?”

Response: The MHRS is clear in its objectives of protecting the harbour for the people of Mangawhai. If, and when, it believes the NRC is undertaking the work currently performed by the Society, then it will gracefully withdraw. At present the NRC does not have equipment to dredge the harbour channels, nor a budget to do so. In addition, the NRC declined to assist with the hydrographic survey, the results of which were presented at the public meeting.

Trevor Downey
Chairman, Mangawhai Harbour Restoration Society (Inc)

A spokesperson for the Mangawhai Harbour Restoration Society (MHRS) quoted in the January 11 issue of the Focus says that their research “… has proven without doubt that mangrove removal had no impact on the fairy tern population.”

What research? There has been no research published since the removal of mangroves last year. It may be pure coincidence, but the 2015-16 breeding season for the NZ fairy tern has been the worst since 2004-5, with only two chicks fledging at Mangawhai.

I daresay the MHRS does not intentionally set out to harm NZ fairy tern and other birdlife, but their actions may have unintended consequences: they may

unwittingly endanger the survival of New Zealand’s rarest bird, the NZ fairy tern, which breeds at only five Northland locations. Mangawhai is the most significant of these locations. If their breeding at Mangawhai is not protected, they edge that bit closer to extinction. Surely we as a community do not want to be responsible for that.

The responsible thing to do is to leave the harbour to settle down and recover from the major interventions of the past year and to assess the effects of these actions before rushing off to do more mangrove removal.

As stated at the MHRS’s (recent) meeting, the New Zealand Fairy Tern Charitable Trust would like to see a comprehensive study of the harbour and its environs and would like to work with MHRS to ensure that the harbour is protected for all species.

Heather Rogan
Convenor, NZ Fairy Tern Charitable Trust

How dare the Mangawhai Harbour Restoration Society (MHRS) assume that the majority of Mangawhai residents/ratepayers want the entire forest of mangroves removed from their harbour!

And, how dare they call themselves the MHRS without showing any interest at all in riparian planting, like most harbourside communities are now doing in our little country!

The MHRS name is an oxymoron.

Two hundred years of deforestation, farming and other “development”, besides the construction of two major causeways, have led naturally to the condition of our harbour. Perhaps the MHRS could look into the future, and see the protective qualities of mangroves when it comes to tidal surges, increased extreme weather et cetera, as other countries are dealing with these issues right now.

Pulling out a few mangrove sprouts on a regular basis might maintain some areas of sand in our beautiful estuary, but cutting off 50-60 year old (or older) mangrove trunks and leaving the rest to rot in the mud, is not going to produce white sand. I hate to think what the long-term results will be. I wish someone would take an informed scientific approach to restoring the harbour, rather than flexing ill-informed muscle.

Remember you are spending our enforced rates, so our views need to be acknowledged. The Environment Court has made it very clear that stage one is all you have been allowed, and asking the NRC to ignore this is illegal – and shows scientific ignorance.

(Name supplied)


There is no denying the latest mangrove removals near Insley St and the so-called Mangrove Island have been major. The visual impact has been significant, either positive or negative depending on your point of view. However, it is clear it is going to be a long slow process before the nirvana of a sandy beach along Insley St or a sand island off Kanui St Esplanade Reserve is achieved.

Indeed Auckland Council research on mangrove removal concludes that ‘change to a sandier non-mangrove state will require at least a decade, if not far longer, for erosion of muddy sediment and dispersal or decomposition of remaining mangrove vegetative biomass. In sheltered locations, change to a sandier state appears unlikely.’

Would it not be prudent to assess the impacts of these latest removals before proceeding with plans to remove three times the area removed to date? We know that mangroves reduce the impact of waves and tide on the coastal edge and help to reduce coastal erosion. What impact will the latest removals have on erosion of the harbour edge, previously mitigated by the mangroves? I would expect this to be a question those living at Back Bay (and others in the Mangawhai community) would want answered before the mangroves in front of their frontage are removed.

Peter Pritchard


As a rate payer I was one of the 80 people who attended the meeting on January 8 with regard to the mangrove removal.

I would have liked the people in the audience to have had a 'so called voice' but sadly anybody who attempted to stand up were quickly moved along or rudely spoken over. I couldn't hear what they had to say. So much for freedom of speech. I felt ashamed to be a local.

As somebody who is concerned with the health of the harbour, I would like to know what research is going on concerning the dieback of pipi beds and how that relates to the mangroves. It’s my understanding that pipi are dying New Zealand wide.

My own reading shows that erosion is a factor in pipi health and that excessive sediment reduces their immunity to endemic disease so mangroves attest sediment and inhibit erosion – but what do I know as a layperson?

I for one will be hiding behind the sofa when these people come knocking. My concern initially was around more jet skis in the harbor destroying the peaceful habitat where I live but I was too scared to put this question forward.

Veronica Justly

Have your say. Letters should be emailed to the Mangawhai Focus at info@mangawhaifocus.co.nz. Please supply name, address and contact number. Only name and district will be printed. We reserve the right to abridge or withhold letters, or share with others for right of reply.

UNIQUE PROPERTY: The parcel of council land for sale on Wharefdale Rd has an extensive wetland system according to a council-commissioned report.
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