Environment Waikato, the Minister of Conservation and Thames-Coromandel District Council have declined resource consents for the proposed Tairua Marina after an 18 day hearing held over two months presided over by a committee of independent hearing commissioners.
Tairua Marine Ltd and Pacific Paradise Ltd had applied for consents to establish a 150-berth marina and facilities at Tairua, including consents for disposing of dredgings.
More than a thousand submissions were made to Environment Waikato and the Thames-Coromandel District Council, with support and opposition fairly evenly divided. Most of the submitters who asked to be heard at the hearing opposed the project.
Independent hearing commissioners were appointed by all authorities - environmental planner and mediator Dorothy Wakeling, biologist and planner Dr Ian Stewart, solicitor Simon Berry and Waitangi Tribunal member John Kneebone.
Having considered evidence from over 150 witnesses, the Hearing Committee said the project would be contrary to sustainable management as required by the Resource Management Act. The Paku Bay area contained outstanding natural features worthy of protection and the marina development would endanger the naturalness of the bay, reduce the area available for public use and alter the quality of access, it said.
The scale of the development was inappropriate in that location and would compromise the natural character of the coastal environment. The Committee accepted that the marina would unduly restrict public access and would be a cultural offence to local Maori.
The project involved enclosing about 4.4 ha of the tidal area of the seabed to form the marina and dredging in Paku Bay, adjacent to Paku Hill in Tairua Harbour. About one hectare of seabed beside Paku Drive was to have been reclaimed for parking and a 400 metre breakwater and 180 metre island breakwater constructed, with a public walkway. Dredged clean sand would have been used to replenish the beach at Tairua and a new floating ferry terminal provided to replace the existing wharf.
The commissioners said they had accorded little weight to the disparity in the number of submissions for and against. Those supporting the project said it would boost the local economy, and provide amenities which outweighed adverse environmental effects.
Those opposed – some in groups – were concerned about the effect on recreational amenities, exclusive use of harbour space, effects on visual amenity, views, noise, parking and traffic, odour, birds, water quality and navigational hazards. They said there was no demand for a marina and there were more suitable locations.
The Director-General of Conservation opposed the consents, citing sacrificing of the inter-tidal area’s natural values, effects on seabed habitats and Tairua Harbour habitat generally. Maori submitters opposed the project because of alienation of ownership rights. Environment Waikato officers recommended declining the consents because of environmental effects.