More than 350 people attended last Saturday’s Healthier Harbour information day in Whangamata.
“The turnout was excellent and generally people seemed pleased to have an opportunity to talk to us about their concerns and discuss options to address them,” said Environment Waikato’s river and catchment services group manager Scott Fowlds.
“From the conversations staff had, there seems to be a good level of understanding of the need to address the sources of sedimentation in the harbour, not just the mangroves. As such, people were generally supportive of an integrated approach to managing the harbour and surrounding land, and the priority works proposed in the catchment management plan.
“When it comes to mangroves, people told us they’re really frustrated it has taken so long to get to this point, and they just want to see some action. We’re also keen to move ahead but there is a process we have to follow.
“Ensuring the whole community has an opportunity to have their say is the first step in that process. The community’s feedback will then be used to help the council decide how mangroves will be managed. Depending on the decision council makes we will need to determine whether further consultation through a formal process is necessary.
“We will also need to go through the appropriate resource consent process.”
Discussions at the information day indicated that people favour Scenario 6 – removing 73 hectares of mangroves.
Mr Fowlds understands that people favour this scenario because they believe it will best address the concerns they have over mangroves restricting harbour access, impacting on views and contributing to flooding of properties near the Wentworth River.
“These values are important, but will need to be balanced against potential environmental impacts and cost.
“The larger the area of mangroves cleared, the greater the cost and likelihood the decision could be challenged, which would delay the process further,” said Mr Fowlds.
To date, around 140 people have returned the feedback form. All forms should be returned to Environment Waikato by 7 November.
“One hundred and forty returns is a great start, but we hope the other 4000 Whangamata ratepayers also take this opportunity to have their say,” Mr Fowlds said.
People who need more information to help them make their decision are welcome to chat to Environment Waikato staff – freephone 0800 800 401.