There’s to be an early, pre-Christmas start to mangrove removal at Whangamata with Waikato Regional Council bringing forward work at a site known as Area C on the north-eastern, waterside edge of the harbour.
Since consent for mangrove clearance was granted, the council has been looking at various options for getting on with work as early as possible.
Now the early start to the clearance of almost 0.2 hectares due to start on 11 December – compared to a planned start in March – has been made possible by work undertaken in recent months by Whangamata mangroves project manager Emily O’Donnell.
“We have been very keen ourselves to get on with clearance as soon as possible and have also heard the local community’s desire for us to get on with things as quickly as we can,” she said.
“So I have worked closely with my council colleagues and others to find a way to bring forward some initial clearance work in Area C.
"Part of the reason we can bring things forward in this area is that the section is to be cleared by hand, which is less intrusive, and there are fewer ecological considerations at this time of year. Also, a number of logistical ‘stars’ have aligned to allow us to move now,” said Ms O’Donnell.
A contractor will be used to cut down the mangroves manually and load them on to a barge for disposal on land. “The limited clearance we’ll be doing gives us a good chance to trial our systems ahead of larger scale clearance due to start in February/March,” said Ms O’Donnell.
The Environment Court has previously given the regional council permission to clear around 18 hectares of mangroves at Whangamata over several years as well as the clean up of 4.2 hectares.
“We appreciate it’s been a long and frustrating process for residents keen to see removal at Whangamata,” said Ms O’Donnell.
“So it’s good to be getting started this month and we will continue moving things along as quickly as possible after that.”
Thames-Coromandel councillor Simon Friar said he is “extremely pleased” some clearance is finally being undertaken next week.
“I am sympathetic to the frustrations felt by the community and remain concerned that the scale of clearance, and the conditions it is preceding under, is still quite limited. At least something is happening now.
“Looking forward, I don’t believe that the Resource Management Act process is an appropriate method for determining future harbour restoration of this kind and I am presently pursuing avenues to try and find a better way.
“I feel the present RMA avenue only leads to extreme time delays and huge costs for communities that cannot afford it.”