Environment Waikato has put on hold any decisions about the removal of mangroves in Whangamata Harbour to allow time to consult with iwi and other stakeholders about further opportunities to consider the draft Whangamata Harbour and catchment plans.
Working with the community, iwi, and agencies, the council has developed draft plans to improve the health of the Whangamata Harbour, associated catchment management plans and four options for mangrove management.
The harbour plan considers the inter-related issues of sedimentation, water quality, biodiversity, public access and recreation and identifies actions to address those issues. It takes a holistic approach to the management of key issues affecting the harbour, including the management of mangroves.
The catchment management plan proposes priority works to reduce problems identified in the harbour plan, such as sedimentation and flood risk, and the timeframe over which the work could be done.
The mangrove options canvass the likely level of community support for each option, the potential environmental effects, flood mitigation benefits, legal and process implications, and costs.
In an informal consultation process last October, Environment Waikato asked Whangamata residents and ratepayers to comment on the issues identified in these plans, as well as indicate their preferred options for mangrove management.
Since then, Environment Waikato chairman Peter Buckley, Thames-Coromandel constituency representative Simon Friar and Chief Executive Harry Wilson have met with stakeholders to try to find a way of managing mangroves that would be acceptable to all parties.
As a result of feedback from these meetings, the council has resolved to put aside any discussion about removing mangroves until the harbour and catchment plans have been finalised.
The regional council wants to work with stakeholders to find a solution that balances community wishes, environmental concerns and funding issues.
Cr Friar said it was clear a considerable proportion of the local community wanted large scale removal of mangroves.
The council supports some level of mangrove management in the Whangamata Harbour and wants to consult fully with all stakeholders to establish the level of mangrove management that would be acceptable to all groups.
Cr Friar said it was important every effort was made to gain consensus and avoid any challenge in the Environment Court which would inevitably lengthen the process and drive up costs to ratepayers.
“The best thing for the Whangamata community and the wider region is to allow more time for stakeholders to finalise the overarching harbour and catchment management plans.”
The process for finalising these plans will be considered by representatives of the regional council, Hauraki Maori Trust Board, Department of Conservation, Thames-Coromandel District Council and representatives of key community groups.
The implementation of the harbour and catchment plans will be confirmed through the 2009/19 long-term council community plan and will be aligned with the Coromandel growth strategy, Coromandel Blueprint.