Green Ribbon Nomination

Whangateau Harbourcare was nominated for the Green Ribbon award. Whangateau HarbourCare didn’t win but it was an honour to be considered.

Nominee: Whangateau HarbourCare Group (Inc.)
P.O. Box 108,
Matakana 0948

Nominator: Sarah Stead,
Environmental Education Officer,
Rodney District Council,
Private Bag 500,
Orewa 0946. 426 5169,
sarah.stead@rodney.govt.nz

Sarah has been advisor in setting up recent activities for the HarbourCare Group.

The HarbourCare Group existed as an informal group of concerned locals for some time before becoming incorporated in 1998. This was done under the umbrella of the Landcare Trust of NZ with the assistance of Helen Moodie and commitment for staff and funding was provided by the Auckland Regional Council and the Rodney District Council. All members are volunteers with a dedicated group of about 12 regulars as a core of 60.

The Group has made itself responsible for the catchment and harbour shown in the following map – outlined in red and shaded green.

The objectives of the Group are:
· To help local people to work together planning and implementing sustainable management and protection of the harbour, land and other resources in the Whangateau Harbour and Catchment area.
· To seek funding for such land and resource based projects.
· To invite assistance with activities, to commission research and to share information.

Significant Environmental Benefits – The Whangateau Harbour is the only remaining relatively pristine harbour in the Auckland region and is a very important fish nursery. All efforts are intended to maintain the water and catchment quality and to encourage landowners and users to protect this resource. Increasing development has increased pressure on the harbour and risks degradation so the HarbourCare Group has been active in contributing to ARC and RDC plans and supporting or opposing activities through the RMA process.

Regular walks and investigations around the harbour have enabled the group to prevent further destruction of the coastal edge by residents and to identify weed problems in and around the harbour as well as to highlight the ongoing health of the harbour. Continuing photography of these areas is giving us ammunition to require local bodies to take action to control further destruction of the harbour edge and to restore the original vegetation and ecosystem on which much of the harbour health depends. The recent commissioning of aerial photos will assist us to identify changes and take necessary action.

Education – Education has been a prime factor in the Group’s activities. Early on in its life there was emphasis on providing opportunities for the public to attend seed collecting days (shown in the photo) and to learn about planting to support eroding hills and coastlines. Research was undertaken on the state of the harbour’s contributing streams and some planting with Trees for Survival was undertaken. Meetings to inform locals on weed and pest control have been held and more recently activities have focussed on the harbour itself with regular sampling of cockles in two areas, guided snorkelling, boating and walking activities and identification of human degradation of the coastline.

By involving the whole community and working in conjunction with other local organisations the Group is able to address social concerns but economic concerns are outside the objectives of the organisation. We have members involved in bird watching and protection, establishment of public access to the coast and preservation of historic features.

Tangible Results – As a consequence of this activity and the on-going high profile of the Group the ARC has commissioned significant research to support the work of a Forum set up to allow local people to identify problems and to suggest ways to address these.

One of our long-term projects has been control of weeds on Horseshoe Island in the harbour. Regular work and maintenance has largely eliminated gorse, pampas, acacias and other aggressive weeds providing an opportunity for native species to be established.

In conjunction with a historic trail project initiated by the Whangateau Residents and Ratepayers Assn., our members have assisted in the establishment of the trail and extensive planting along the trail and foreshore edges. This trail provides a link between the historic boat building facilities in the area. and is an important part of the local history. Members are also presently involved in researching the original Maori names in the area in, cooperation with local iwi, prior to obtaining funding for appropriate sign posting so that these names will not be lost.

The results of the HarbourCare Group’s activities are measurable in a variety of ways – through the regular counting of cockles and active and aggressive contact with the necessary organisations we were able to persuade the Minister of Fisheries to agree to a closure of the shellfish beds for 3 years to allow recovery after a serious mortality event last summer. A programme of monitoring is being sought through the ARC Forum to measure existing and future impacts and in particular to endeavour to persuade the RDC that the “cheap” option of transporting sewage from other catchments to ours has a disastrous potential.

Results are apparent in reduction in weed species, changes to Council Plans, provision of better coastal access, increased vegetation of streams and hillsides and most importantly a profile for the HarbourCare Group which has earned the respect of various bodies at local and regional level which enables to support our activities.

The establishment of a web site in recent months is giving the wider community access to information on the Group and it is planned to add access to all monitoring results including water monitoring and shellfish monitoring.

The photo shows a small part of the exhibition which was recently shown at the Auckland Museum

The photo shows a small part of the exhibition which was recently shown at the Auckland Museum

Innovation/Extra Mile – One of our most innovative recent activities has been the preparation of a photo exhibition showing the life in the Harbour. This involved an extraordinary amount of hard work and voluntary effort to produce an outstanding mobile exhibition which has already travelled extensively to areas in the North, to Auckland and to Wellington to inform the public of the importance of such small harbours and the need to protect them. It was first shown as the opening of Seaweek in 2009. The exhibition includes more than 30 photos taken by professional photographers. Travelling with the exhibition is a film showing the degradation of the harbour edge by human activity to rouse public awareness. The setting up of the exhibition was supervised by Billy Apple and the result has been an outstanding success.

Attached is our 10 point plan which is a blueprint for progress in the future to maintain the momentum achieved to date.

A recent Funday incorporating snorkelling, harbour walks and the glass bottom boat attracted more than 200 participants. The picture shows snorkellers being prepared by EMR volunteers - Darryl Torckler.

A recent Funday incorporating snorkelling, harbour walks and the glass bottom boat attracted more than 200 participants. The picture shows snorkellers being prepared by EMR volunteers - Darryl Torckler.

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