The recent resource consent application to rebuild the historic wharf in Mangawhai has been refused outright by the hearing commissioners acting on behalf of the Northland Regional Council (NRC).
This follows a recommendation to decline the consent by NRC staff even though elected council representatives were in favour of the rebuild.
Mangawhai Historic Wharf Trust chairman Colin Leach said the decision was illogical, but not a surprise.
“There was no evidence presented to the hearing, that increasing human activity on the harbour and foreshore over the past 20 years has affected the fairy tern population and its capacity to breed,” he says.
“It appears then, that the commissioners gave the speculation that it might do so greater weight than the interests and support of the community for the wharf.
“Interestingly, the main opponents seem to think another thousand households, along with their dogs and boats, living in the immediate vicinity is not a threat.”
Neither the Department of Conservation (DOC), who flew up a large team from Wellington, or Forest & Bird have objected to Mangawhai Central, but strongly pushed the view that the wharf would effectively lead to the extinction of the fairy tern.
“Successful foraging areas exist in other parts of the harbour with much higher levels of human activity than the area of the proposed wharf. Much of the evidence presented was contradictory and opinion rather than fact or science.”
In attempting to reach common ground the Mangawhai Historic Wharf Trust offered a number of mitigating changes to their application, including removing the gangway and pontoon, which effectively turned the wharf into an educational, observation and information centre for bird life and local history. These were rejected by the commissioners in what seemed like a predetermined position.
Colin Leach says the decision was a real disappointment for the project team who had worked very hard for the last four years to make the wharf happen and he thanks them along with the wider community for their support.
“This support has funded the bulk of the resource consent costs which are over $120,000. Half of this cost, some $60,000, relates to NRC charges. The Trust, as a volunteer driven charity, applied for relief from these costs and was generously given a refund of $896. It is hard to view this without a great deal of cynicism.”
Mr Leach went on to say that the decision deprives our growing community of a much-needed amenity, which ironically would allow people to walk out over the foreshore and water without interfering with bird life. It is a natural extension of the walking tracks.
“The Trust had worked hard with central government, which recognised its benefits with a funding grant of $600,000 from the infrastructure ready fund,” he says.
“With the resource consent refused, this money is now lost to the community. Mangawhai residents and visitors have every right to be angry and concerned because if the NRC are consistent with this decision, then swimming, walking and launching boats on the intertidal area would be completely banned.”
The Trust is keen to hear feedback from the community before deciding on its next steps, which could include an appeal to the Environment Court.
The Fairy Tern Charitable Trust was contacted by The Focus for a response to the hearing outcome, however was unable to respond before print deadline.
n To contact the Trust visit facebook.com/mangawhaihistoricwharf
Mangawhai Historic Wharf Trust chairman Colin Leach.
“If the NRC are consistent with this decision, then swimming, walking and launching boats on the intertidal area would be completely banned.”