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Published: 2016-08-09 00:00:00

Fresh progress is being made on re-starting mangrove removal at Whangamata.

Waikato Regional Council and Thames-Coromandel District Council (TCDC) have announced work to clear another two hectares of mangroves from Whangamata Harbour is due to start in the middle of this month. A one hectare site will be cleared in the Moanaanuanu Estuary and another hectare near Patiki Point.

“We’ve been very keen to get on with managing mangroves again at Whangamata following our pause on work last year due to problems meeting consent conditions allowing clearance,” said regional council chief executive Vaughan Payne.

“Now we feel we can safely start work again at another two one hectare sites and will continue to review whether wider scale clearance can resume under the terms of the current consent.”

TCDC chief executive Rob Williams said: “It has taken some time to get this happening again after the pause to monitor the effects of previous mangrove removals in Whangamata. This latest progress is a result of the collaborative approach to mangrove management agreed to recently between the regional council and our council.

“We're looking forward to continuing this current collaboration with the regional council and the other parties involved in mangrove management in Whangamata and elsewhere in the Coromandel.”

The background to the re-start is that Waikato Regional Council holds a consent to remove 22.9 ha of mature mangroves from Whangamata Harbour subject to a monitoring plan that sets out trends and triggers that need to be met before subsequent stages of mangroves can be removed. Following the removal of 11.7 ha, expert monitoring confirmed that the necessary trends and triggers were not met for removal to continue to the next stage.

Since then the regional council has worked closely with the district council, iwi, the experts who undertook the monitoring, stakeholders and the local community to find a way to progress mangrove removal at Whangamata within the bounds of the existing resource consent.

“We now have three full years of monitoring information regarding the effects of mangrove removal and we have learned a lot about removal methods that can be applied to minimising adverse impacts.” Mr Payne said.

“We will apply this learning as we undertake removal at the two one hectare sites.”

Planning is underway for work at the two one hectare sites to be carried out between 15 and 31 August to fit in with tidal conditions and restrictions around works during the bird breeding season.

Mangrove material will be mulched and used as compost on adjacent reserves. This will mean temporary closure of those reserves whilst works take place. Signage will be in place alerting the public to those closures.

Alongside the mangrove removal, the regional council will be building on local community pest control initiatives in the Moanaanuanu Estuary by extending the current trap line for rats and mustelids so as to better protect threatened wetland birds which breed locally, such as bittern, banded rail and fernbird.

The resumption of mangrove removal follows another positive announcement last month that the two councils had signed a new Statement of Intent (SOI).

The SOI and a joint action plan are giving effect to a shared responsibility approach between the two councils to moving forward on mangrove management on the Coromandel Peninsula.

Both the regional and district councils are committed to working together with the local community, iwi treaty partners and key stakeholders at Whangamata and on other sites around the district that may be suitable for mangrove removal, as well as on where mangroves should remain untouched.