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Marine pests prompt rethink on local hull cleaning rule


The Northland public is being asked for its views on whether a single set of vessel hull cleaning rules should be developed to help stop the spread of marine pests across New Zealand’s four busiest boating regions.

For several years, the Northland, Auckland, Bay of Plenty and Waikato regions – alongside Biosecurity New Zealand and boaties from all over – have been working together to stop the spread of unwanted marine pests like Mediterranean fanworm hitchhiking on vessel hulls.

The Northland Regional Council (NRC) says while Biosecurity New Zealand (a business unit of the Ministry for Primary Industries) manages national rules to minimise the risk of new pest species arriving on vessels from overseas, the regulations for (mainly Kiwi-based) vessels moving around within coastal waters vary from region to region.

“Given our four northern-most regional councils (Northland, Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty Toi Moana) are also collectively home to the country’s biggest boating populations, we think creating a consistent regulatory approach is a crucial part of how we respond to the growing threat of marine pests,” regional councillor David Sinclair says.

Councillor Sinclair, the NRC’s Deputy Chairman, says New Zealand’s coastline and rich, diverse marine life has long been at the heart of our shared national identity, but as the population – and an associated increase in boat movements – grew, so too did the risks of marine pest spread. “These pests threaten our incredible coastal playground and its underwater life, including kaimoana. They also pose considerable risks to our tourism and aquaculture industries.”

Council Biosecurity Manager Dom McKenzie says there are a number of potential options ranging from a requirement for a clean hull at all times, only when moving or only when moving to specially identified places, and each option has its pros and cons. If new rules were to be proposed, each council would also need to consider things like roles and responsibilities, where the costs should lie, and how these should be funded.

Councillor Sinclair sees the new rules as an opportunity to be better prepared and help safeguard the north’s marine environment for future generations. “Some of the world’s worst marine invaders – things like the northern Pacific seastar, the Chinese mitten crab and invasive kelps such as Caulerpa – haven’t reached New Zealand yet, but if they do, having clean hulls will help prevent their spread between our harbours and special places like offshore islands.”

Mr McKenzie says the four northern councils are wanting to hear what their respective local communities think before advancing the hull cleaning initiative further. “We’d like to encourage as many people as possible to take this unusual opportunity to have a say on a local authority issue that traverses several regions.”

Councillor Sinclair says all the feedback will be reported back to each of the four councils around the middle of 2019 and guide future decisions on whether a consistent regularly approach should be developed.

“Before going down that road, any such proposal would need to be agreed to by each council, and would follow a formal public process to provide opportunity for public input.”

A discussion document outlining the different options, including their pros and cons, can be found on the Bionet website, along with the opportunity to give feedback online, www. bionet.nz. The two month feedback period runs from March 18 until May 24.
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