Environment Waikato has endorsed a plan for the future direction of Whangamata.
The Council has received a draft Whangamata Community Plan encompassing work on a variety of environmental issues which will be used to guide Regional Council and Thames Coromandel District Council actions in the future. It will be distributed to all Whangamata ratepayers for comment and submissions.
Project Manager for the local area management strategy, Alan Campbell said the town was one of the fastest growing in the Region. In late 1998 environmental issues in the area had been of concern to both locals and Environment Waikato for some time, and an ad hoc approach to dealing with them was creating frustration and anger in the community.
People were concerned about the condition of the harbour where water quality, sedimentation, mangrove growth, shellfish health and competition for space were symptoms of an environment coming under increasing pressure from human development.
Water quality concerns extended beyond the harbour to the popular surfing area and the management of the beach itself was controversial.
Environment Waikato had been dealing with these issues from the mid 1990s through both regulation and education, especially with the marina consent application, Beachcare groups, mangroves and streambank erosion in the Wentworth Valley. It had also examined forestry consent compliance and operation of the wastewater treatment plant, he said.
The project was designed to provide maximum community and agency participation in producing a non-statutory plan that could be used by all agencies to guide the way in which they carry out their functions in the area, with implementation through annual planning processes.
Most of the actions needed to improve the situation were District Council functions, he said.
The plan also identifies Environment Waikato actions, including supporting two community forums a year, supporting Care groups, undertaking a pest control study, monitoring, research and enforcement.
Cr Evan Penny said the work done had raised several important issues. There needed to be more caution about spraying sewage effluent which was clearly the major source of pollution. Sampling issues had led to “quite significant” changes to the national sheltered water sampling protocols, there was a much better understanding of what happened in harbours and an acknowledgement of the high level of “bugs” coming from forested areas, which would take some working through. Understanding was also growing about the role of nutrient runoff from land and its effect on mangroves.
“A huge number of people have been involved in the process and the outcome is a resounding success,” he said.