Councillors have today given the green light for Environment Waikato to begin consulting with the Whangamata community over two inter-related plans aimed at improving management of the town’s harbour and the river catchment running into it.
The two plans are the updated Draft Whangamata Harbour Plan and the Draft Whangamata Catchment Management Plan. The draft catchment plan was developed in response to an earlier version of the draft harbour plan, which identified that an integrated approach to harbour and catchment management was needed to address sedimentation and other issues impacting on the health of Whangamata harbour. The way land is used in the catchment impacts significantly on the amount of sediment going into waterways and the harbour.
The draft harbour plan proposes a range of actions that are needed to address issues related to water quality, the preservation of wildlife natural habitat, sedimentation and flooding, recreation, boating, access and views. These include managing the expansion of mangroves, restoring natural habitats for birdlife, and river and catchment works to reduce sediment entering the harbour.
An accompanying mangrove management report will also give the community information on a range of options for mangrove management at Whangamata. Public hearings on mangrove management are now expected to commence early in the new year.
Meanwhile, the draft catchment plan looks at how land-based factors are contributing to problems in the harbour. In particular, the plan notes that some land management activities and stream bank erosion are contributing to the amount of sediment building up in the lower Wentworth River and the harbour. A range of actions such as stream bank fencing and channel maintenance are proposed to help combat the sedimentation problems.
The cost of the initial phase of the draft catchment management plan has been assessed at $570,000. If mangrove removal is agreed, any costs involved would be on top of this. Indications of the likely impact on Whangamata ratepayers of these sorts of costs are to be provided during the consultation over the draft harbour and catchment management plans. That will help the community and Environment Waikato councillors decide whether to go ahead with the spending.
"Final costs will depend on the amount and type of work the community decides they want to carry out," said Environment Waikato’s river and catchment services group manager Scott Fowlds.
Mr Fowlds said the draft harbour and catchment plans, the mangroves report and the consultation process would provide the Whangamata community with an opportunity to put in place the work needed for the healthy harbour and stable catchment local people have indicated they want.
“It is pleasing to see this work coming together and involving the community in decision-making. The way forward at Whangamata is to understand the relationship between catchment and the harbour to take action to look after both.”
“We know there are a range of views and values in the community and one of Environment Waikato’s roles will be to establish a balanced approach to the way forward, taking into account those different views and values.”
Mr Fowlds said Environment Waikato would work closely with Thames Coromandel District Council (TCDC) over issues at Whangamata as the two councils share responsibility for managing the coastal marine area there.
“As part of the process of assessing the way forward at Whangamata, we plan to discuss with TCDC what roles each of us should play in providing solutions to the problems in the area.”