Letters to the Editor
DOLLARS & SENSE
Way back 25 years or so ago the commercial sand dredgers regularly dredged the harbour bar and also Picnic Bay using deep draft heavy barges and tugs and that made the harbour entrance a safer place for boaties for a few months or so.
The knowledge and the proper equipment was available then as it is today and lies in the hands of commercial sand mining companies.
A compromise could possibly have been struck with the sand miners to allow them a certain quantity of sand in return for keeping the harbour entrance clear and it would have cost very little.
It would not have been a total answer as sand and silt still accumulates in the lower harbour and probably in larger amounts now due to the removal of the upper harbour mangroves and their ability to sieve out sand and silt.
The MHRS need to re-examine priorities and they should focus on dangerous coastal erosion in the upper harbour by the Mangawhai Hotel and the seriously undercut cliff faces and also serious erosion at Moirs Point. It is worth noting the foreshore at these two points are not protected by mangroves!
With regard to finances, an independent accountant with maritime accountancy experience highlights the MHRS's current financial situation and finishes with the comment that 'I would not be surprised if they will exhaust their reserves.'
On March 31, 2015, MHRS had $379,000 in their bank and this does not include expenditure in the year ended March 31, 2016. 'And not the expenditure relating to the latest mangrove removal – which no doubt would have been significant. If it cost $20,000 to do Lincoln St the previous year it will be much more for the Insley/Mangrove Island exercise. I would not be surprised if they exhausted their reserves. I would not be surprised if the barge slipping cost more than $40,000. I presume they will need to come into the new MOSS (survey) regime as well.’
The MHRS is mostly dependent on the levy on our rates and it effectively gets 'a wage rise' every time a new house or property is formed and rates are gathered. This means that regardless of its commitments it basically gets an increase in income every year rather than a fixed predetermined amount for regular maintenance dredging.
What is the matter with these people? The proposal to destroy all the mangroves in the Mangawhai estuary indicates a vast extent of ignorance within a sector of the local community. It reveals a lack of understanding on how the environment functions and the implications such destruction will have not only on the estuary’s physical state and bio-diversity, but also on the progress of climate change.
If nothing else, mangroves are one of the most effective natural strategies to combat sea level rise and greenhouse gas emissions. Don’t residents realise that in dissipating the force of flood and tidal water and by trapping sediments, these estuaries trees protect against erosion of adjacent land? They even improve water quality!
Destroy mangroves and such activity will inevitably increase future flood susceptibility thereby increasing insurance premiums and a loss of compensation from the Earthquake Commission. Do ratepayers want to find themselves liable for more costs yet again?
Residents need to know that the United Nations Environment Programme is currently funding the planting of mangroves, especially in SE Asia, to rectify damage done by the Indian Ocean tsunami. Other regions like Louisiana (USA) are seeking to restore their coastal wetlands after the ravages of cyclones like Katrina, and sea-level rise.
Doesn’t the Mangawhai community appreciate that mangroves are one of the most efficient carbon sinks, arguably even better than a tropical rainforest? They don’t just store carbon and release oxygen, but, if they are destroyed, all that carbon dioxide will be released into the air. Mangawhai will increase its carbon footprint and irresponsibly contribute to global warming. What benefit is that?
The MHRS is living in cloud cuckoo land if it thinks it can put back the clock and turn the harbour into an idealised and unrealistic state. It would, in fact, create a terrible muddy mess as it has failed to attack the root causes of mangrove proliferation. After all, mangroves are the natural world’s response to poor land management, that is, inadequate sediment control, farm nutrious run-off and a loss of riparian forest. Shouldn’t society be putting these things right first?
Last October the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics NZ released their ‘State of the Environment’ report. This made depressing reading as ongoing loss of bio-diversity and the increasing risk of extinction of many wildlife species were principal issues. Hardly surprising, given the behaviour of groups like the MHRS as mangroves support a vast eco-system so their destruction results in the loss of a variety of wildlife. It is not just species of birds that suffer but remember mangroves provide a breeding ground and sheltered habitat for fish. Both the critically endangered fairy tern and threatened banded rail are unlikely to survive if wholesale destruction takes place. The terns may not nest in the dunes but, like the rails, they depend on the estuary for food.
What is the matter with these people? It seems that not content with degrading their own physical living environment they want to destroy wildlife and hasten climate change as well. Why are they ignoring all the research work carried out by scientists worldwide includingour own Professor Bruce Glavovic of Massey University and Professor Mario Soares of the University of Rio de Janiero, a leading authority on mangroves.
Mangawhai residents should be making their own independent investigations and ignore ill-informed vested interests. Sad to say the proposal to destroy all the mangroves in their estuary illustrates just how dangerous a combination of ignorance and selfishness can be.
Now retired, but having spent most of my life in the field of mechanical and, later, civil engineering design and construction, I have been interested in the continuing saga of that unbelievable third world example – the Mangawhai waste water contract.
My bona fides will show that I have occupied senior positions in the fields of infrastructure, water supply and contract administration and indeed, am still retained as the engineer to a Northland scheme of greater size and complexity (of which I designed and facilitated the construction), I would guess, than the Mangawhai scheme.
Recently I have met with Commissioner Robertson and spoken at length with Bruce Rogan and also to two senior engineers resident in this area. I have also talked briefly to staff at the Ministry for Local Government and to staff at the Audit Office.
What has struck me is the complexity of the whole fiasco, which could surely have been explained in a document for the sureties to this huge resulting debt – the ratepayer – to at least let them more easily understand the details of its sad history.
What must come from all this is that methods are in place from Government to ensure that this can't happen again, that unqualified CEO's and councillors can not approve such arrangements on their own. Having worked with CEO's let's remember that they are a semi-political rabbit and the link between management and Council. Senior management are very often better qualified and experienced than a CEO in professional matters.
I, like a senior engineer with whom I have spoken, believe that Government should recognise that the best safeguards against this situation have not been instituted from Parliament to date and perhaps there can, one way or another, be found some central relief to the Kaipara ratepayer – even perhaps before the proposed Courts sit on the matter again.
On Saturday January 9 I joined the information evening about modern waste water treatment in the library hall. I saw many displays and a presentation, and was impressed.
It was amazing to learn that in many countries waste water is being looked at in different ways. They have learned that mixing all together makes treatment actually very expensive. A lot of money is saved by collecting black water, brown water, yellow water and grey water separately then reusing it: grey water for watering, urine for fertiliser. Even the composting of faeces are with modern designed porcelain application.
There have been samples of large and small scales, for thousands of households, clusters of dozens and for single households on site. This is called ecosanitation and has started to become mainstream for all new sewage plants. The farmers love cheap local fertiliser and nature loves it as there is no effluent.
I love teaching my children this modern way, and they understand it to be a very normal and natural way for humans to be integrated in a living circle. Or to say it with the words of the famous painter Friedensreich Hundertwasser: ‘Why do I have to give away my shit in order to poison my environment? I prefer to keep it and turn it into gold.’
Every time I drive over the Mangawhai Beach School causeway at low tide I wind my window up. I bet all of you do too! I live 500 metres from the so-called mangrove island and get whiffs of the smell at times, so just imagine how ghastly Mangawhai would be if all the mangroves were removed. A cloud of stink would hover over the complete area on still days and even people living quite far off would notice it. Imagine, Magical Mangawhai, who would want to come here, who would want to shop here, and who would want to buy our properties?
I live 25 metres from the estuary in the Village and have mangroves at the bottom of my garden on the other side of the Queens Chain. There are many mature lovely olive-coloured
mangrove plants, their rounded forms a delight to the eye, softening the shore line and helping prevent the surge of waves up onto the property especially in screaming south-easterly storms.
I cannot imagine the ghastly sight of dead sticks at low tide as far as I can see, looking like a desert for how many years? The Pahurehure Inlet is bought up at every MHRS meeting, still dead sticks after eight years, and I wonder if it still stinks? How long, if ever, before golden sand returns? No one knows.
I live close enough to the estuary to hear daily calls from the pair of banded rails that live here, so close that if I bang a door one or other of them squawks, or drop a hammer on the concrete they complain as well. Where will they and the many others in the upper harbour go as there is so little rough weeds and no scrub left for them – all lawns now.
Think very hard before you sign the petition coming your way. I suggest stopping any removal of mangroves until proper scientific study is made of this harbour and estuary, not relying on study of others, as each one is different in some way and stop this eco-vandalism now, as that is what it is.
I was pleasantly surprised to read in the MRRA’s AGM minutes that of all non-MRRA members within Kaipara District, I was the only one to be bestowed with the (dubious) honour of receiving special recognition. I accept such an accolade on behalf of all those in the community that believe that the MCWWS debate deserves two sides, without the barrage of name calling and personal insults that the MRRA executive and supporters are known to dispense.
While Barbara Pengelly (MRRA secretary) makes a valid statement that the MRRA have not received a cent to date, that is only as a result of their actions failing. In seeking to gain pecuniary award beyond their costs, this results in lining their pockets at the expense of all ratepayers. Dave McGillivray, in his letter of November 9, justified this with a statement of “Perhaps the penalty being claimed… could be regarded as a fine to everybody who sat by and did nothing…”
I am unsure if a small group of people who self-anoint themselves as the saviours of others is a cult or a union, but in any case the court actions of the MRRA in seeking profit is diametrically opposed to Barbara’s stated position.Either the MRRA is seeking to mislead the courts or the Kaipara ratepayers – but you can’t have your cake and eat it too.
I note that Bruce Rogan sought to defend his non-payment of rates on the basis that KDC did not have the right to invoice NRC rates before he then turned around and invoiced the Office of the Auditor General for $54m on behalf of all ratepayers in Kaipara. Bruce explained that the monies would be held by the MRRA until such time as they felt it was appropriate to pass the funds to the KDC. Even with current interest rates we are talking significant sums of money that the MRRA would pocket if the OAG was foolish enough to pay a third party and not KDC direct.
Christian Simon in his letter again makes a strong argument for the MCWWS in saying that separating faeces from the other waste centrally, and then using the nutrient water for fertiliser aligns with international best practice. This is exactly what the MCWWS does – with sterile nutrient rich water irrigated to the farm, while on average a truck load of dry solid waste is removed each week.
The MRRA has also determined to form a subcommittee to address town planning issues. I am unsure as to how Bruce ‘my way or the highway’ Rogan and his cohorts will seek to represent the broader community views on the many issues that Mangawhai faces. Bruce has lead the way in dividing the community with his poisonous pen against any that don’t share his views, and it is most unclear as to how the diverse range of opinions that the community will likely hold on town planning issues from parking, to land sales and long term development would be any better accommodated within the MRRA than the diversity of views on the MCWWS have been.
The reason that cults die out and compulsory unionism ended was that the masses no longer believed that the self-anointed saviours reflect their views and opinions. In my view, so long as the current executive and attitudes within the MRRA remain they will never be in a position to reflect the wider perspective of the Mangawhai community. Even with those changes it will be many years – if ever – before the MRRA is truly representative of the views of all of Mangawhai such is the ill-feeling that has been generated by the personal attacks and insinuations against any not aligned to MRRA’s position. Fortunately the KDC are open to suggestions from anyone who displays a basic level of courtesy and decency – such that residents and ratepayers can have their say without any need for the MRRA.
But back to the real purpose of this letter, and that is to thank the MRRA for the honourable mention at their AGM. It is often said that our actions speak louder than our words. In the same way that the MRRA’s actions in seeking to profit speak loudly against their words denying such intent; their actions in anointing me with special mention at their AGM indicates that they hold me and my opinions in much higher esteem than their words that sought to write me off as spineless and glaringly ignorant would imply. I would have just accepted an apology for their attacks on me – but in hindsight, this honour is so much greater. So thank you – you can keep your empty words, I will take solace in your actions.
Dr Ian Greenwood
A BIG FRAUD
I was disturbed and a little offended by your latest editorial.
You pay me peanuts, do you think I am a monkey? Perhaps I am. I have nothing against primates – most monkeys are intelligent creatures and can deliver a nasty bite when sufficiently riled. I recieved my notice of claim from (KDC revenue manager) Alison Puchaux, January 21.
Rather than engaging in an exercise of post-modern deconstruction to point out the errors in your editorial I have elected rather to submit a shorter more factual presentation. Please excuse me if I go ape, it’s in my nature.
A series of elected councils were slack and gullible. They neglected their duty to prudently exercise governance and oversight over their employees. Taking advantage of this situation, consultants, international financiers and other professional bodies and individuals conspired with employees of the then council to defraud the Kaipara district for personal and company gain.
The result was the arranging, in secret, of an unconsulted illegal and unethical loan. The capital sum obtained would, for the most part, be dispersed to the enrichment of those same financiers, consultants and other professional bodies and individuals. These negotiatons, that are to this day still hidden, resulted in an additional ‘wastewater’ loan between KDC and ABN
Amro for $52,978,420 at 3.28% in 2009 (Note: The Auditor Generals report notes that undefined portions of this loan were used to fund activities other than the Mangawhai Waste Water Scheme.)
This illegal loan cost the district ratepayers over $1.9 million per annum. This loan was refinanced under the KDC Commission in 2014 with ANZ bank at an increased interest rate of 5.6% per annum reviewed quarterly, thus raising the cost to ratepayers to approximately $2.9m per annum.
This is fraud on a grand scale. In real terms the district has become worse off under the appointment of Commissioners than before. Is this what you refer to as sorting out the situation? Regarding Ed’s reference to the one off legal expenses incurred by KDC and MRRA as ‘wasted money’, I would regard these legal costs as ‘unproductive money’. They have however been paid to New Zealand courts and professionals who tendered services. The interest and other service fees paid on the non-consulted, non-consented loan however are paid to foreign investors who collect our money while they sleep. The five major Australian-based trading banks inclusive of the BNZ and ANZ announced a collective shareholder profit for the last financial year of $554b. In many recent cases the Banking Ombudsman found that ANZ has charged unwarranted and illegal fees to customers.
This scenario was described in the belated and costly (around a million bucks) Auditor Generals Report as ‘Consultant Capture’ it was also deemed in several instances as ‘inappropriate’. Ha.
Any fair appraisal of the entire fiasco illustrates (1) the ongoing stripping of wealth from the Kaipara District and Aoteoroa New Zealand, and (2) the rank injustice of robbing the inocent, (ratepayers) to pay for the crimes of others. (Beka, Carter Hollings, ABN Amro, some council management and a few staff) and the negligence of still more others (Office of Auditor General, SFO, various ministers of local Government) all of whom were alerted to the problems existing in the then Council but who failed in their duty to act upon them.
These crimes have been dismissed by (Kaipara Commissioner) John Robertson as 'historical issues' but then all crime is historical is it not? Yet the innocent are still funding this criminal behaviour and the LTP makes it clear that the commission intends to remain complicit with this fraud up to and including the year 2022.
Monkeys generally prefer bananas to peanuts.
Plans to trash all the upper harbour mangrove patches could also trash efforts by local tourist and accommodation providers to maximise tourist returns from the new Te Araroa national walk which will cut right through the upper harbour and Back Bay in particular.
The walkway will bring hundreds if not thousands of hikers and other tourists to Mangawhai each year once it gets going.
The new Mangawhai Museum is strategically placed to spread the word about Mangawhai's unique flora and fauna with its professional displays, and is also financially dependent on gaining much of this custom to make it economically viable.
If all the mangroves are cleaned out of Back Bay there will be nothing to see except mud and sand. Anyone who doubts this should read Wade and Jan Doaks’ Bringing Back The Birdsong, a definitive book on coastal flora and fauna. Chapter 6, A Mangrove World, leaves no doubt
about this and should be essential reading for all who live by or have an interest in the upper harbour.
The upper harbour section of the walk runs down the southern side of Back Bay to Rakanui and then up the coast parallel to Pearson Street and across to the Mangawhai Hotel on the Esplanade reserve.
Among the highlights of this section of the hike are the rare birds, banded rail and fern birds.
Back Bay mangroves protect the salt marshes and these rare plants will go as well with the loss of shoreline protection that mangroves provide.
All the tourists will be left with is stinking mud and decaying mangrove vegetation that will last up to a decade leaving Back Bay with all the ambience of Auckland's Panmure Basin.
Most overseas hikers appreciate mangroves because they personify subtropical maritime vegetation not seen in temperate climates. They come to New Zealand from Northern Europe, North America and Japan and tend to be more informed outgoing hikers revelling via bush tracks. They certainly do not want to gaze out on a vista of decaying mangrove patches. That is hardly the clean green image we promote.
The Estuary Walk from the end of Raymond Bull Rd to the big sand dune on the southern end of the spit is also under threat if all the mangroves are removed, for exactly the same reasons. It was one of the more popular Walking Weekend walks set up by Jean Goldschmidt and her team that has international appeal. It offers a similar coastal experience of endangered salt marshes and endangered birds and great views of the upper harbour and giant sand dunes. For eight years or so my wife and I, and others, have taken many groups on the southern estuary walk. It is the kind of coastal walk backpackers who arrive here on the Te Araroa walk will likely add to their itinerary and find Mangawhai a worthwhile place to linger a few nights.
From a purely commercial view point the destruction of these two environments will cost Mangawhai dearly in existing and potential tourist growth. Accommodation providers and food outlets stand to gain new custom if the mangroves are left and environmentally sensitive trails are established on the proposed trail route. Lessons from the past in other places show that unbridled destruction of native flora and fauna tends to destroy the very things that tourists expect to see. Is this really what tourists want? Mangawhai tourism providers cannot afford to miss out on the new tourism opportunities the national walking track will provide.
I speak from experience of several decades of running my own travel company, Educational Travel International Ltd, and catering for a customer base that seeks environmentally friendly destinations to visit. There will be two bills to pay if the remaining mangroves are cut down – one being the cost of the job in tens of thousands of ratepayers’ dollars (the MHRS levy on our rates) and the second the loss of existing and future wildlife tourism custom if the estuary tracks are simply a walk across an empty beach minus most of its wildlife.
A possible solution is to establish mangrove reserve areas where they cannot be removed, and set up a management regime consisting of various harbour interest groups to control their growth outside of the reserve area.
Roy Vaughan (MNZITT)
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