Councils seek power over mangroves
Thames-Coromandel District Council and Hauraki District Council are seeking authority over mangrove management in their respective areas via a parliamentary bill.
The Thames-Coromandel and Hauraki District Council Mangrove Management Bill is sponsored by Coromandel National MP Scott Simpson, and is awaiting its first reading in parliament.
The bill will empower the councils to make a mangrove management plan for their district and coastal areas.
“It will allow us to plan in conjunction with the community, without costing the time and money it currently does,” says Thames-Coromandel Mayor Sandra Goudie. “It has been extraordinarily expensive and problematic to get anywhere, so this is essentially cutting to the chase.”
At the moment, the authority lies with the Waikato Regional Council to make decisions around mangroves in the respective districts.
“The fact of the matter is, the mangroves weren’t there in the 1960s. So when people make environmental claims around mangroves, you have to ask how that fits,” says Sandra.
Scott says the bill was the initiative of the two councils, and for a local bill to come before parliament, it usually requires the local MP to sponsor it.
“I’m merely the vehicle for allowing it to be discussed in parliament,” he says. “But it’s not about a ‘scorched earth’ policy of removing all mangroves. It just allows both councils to develop their own policies.”
However, the Green Party has labelled the bill ‘ill-conceived’.
“The councils’ lack of understanding about the role mangroves play in providing habitat for fish, birds and shellfish in the harbour is disappointing,” says Green Party environment spokesperson Eugenie Sage.
“Mangroves are a valued native species and the bill would allow for their destruction with little public consultation.
“The spread of mangroves is nature’s response to more sediment in our harbours and estuaries caused by how we have been using land for decades and actions like clearing forest. It is erosion and sedimentation that councils should be worried about, not our native manawa/mangroves.
She says destroying mangroves has often not led to the sandy harbour bottoms some residents hope for. Rather, cleared areas can end up muddy and devoid of life, and may remain this way for years.
“It’s disturbing that district councils want to sidestep the usual Resource Management Act processes with the limited consultation and ad hoc process which the bill proposes.
“Community input is essential to good decisions about mangrove management. The bill would restrict that with its ad hoc processes. It would deny the public the right to access the Environment Court as a check on council decision making.”
The Green Party will be voting against the bill in parliament.