Whangateau Harbour Care Group Submission to The Rodney Local Board Plan Te Mahere A-Rohe O Rodney Te Whakatauira 2017

Whangateau Harbour - Andrew Martin (represented by Vivian Gallery)

Whangateau Harbour – Andrew Martin (represented by Vivian Gallery)

Introduction:

The Whangateau Harbour Group congratulates the Local Board on its vision and commitment to building a community led plan for the Rodney area. We look forward to working closely with the Local Board to develop a priority plan for the care, protection and health of the Whangateau Harbour and the streams and waterways which feed into it.

Our group has as its primary objective, to help local people work together to plan and implement sustainable management and protection of the harbour, land and other resources in the Whangateau Harbour catchment area.

In our submission we wish to focus on the outcomes for Rodney’s harbours, waterways and environment and the three objectives which aim to ensure they are cared for, protected and healthy with specific relation to the Whangateau catchment area. We will look at each of these three objectives in turn.

The health of our environment and our waterways and harbours is of vital importance to the Rodney district. In particular the Whangateau Harbour as it is a significant resource because of its benthic habitat which provides a nursery for fish breeding stocks, is important as a feeding ground for fish and stingrays and is the only known significant parore nursery in the Hauraki Gulf.

The Whangateau harbour is also an important natural resource which provides clean waters and abundant food for a variety of bird species. Migratory birds such as the bar tailed godwits, banded dotterel, South Island pied oystercatchers, wrybill and turnstones as well as local birds which feed there all rear round; dotterel, variable oystercatcher, pied stilt, white faced heron, reef heron, shags, Caspian tern, white fronted and fairy tern and royal spoonbill.

It also provides a safe recreational area for boating, paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkelling, swimming and at low tide, walking. The Omaha Sand Spit and Horseshoe Island are nesting sites for some of our most endangered birds.

Objective 1. Our coastline and unique environment is well managed and thrives:

  1. a) We welcome the support for community efforts to improve our environment such as pest-free areas and streamside restoration, weeding and planting. Strong and well-resourced volunteer community groups are vital to the improved health of streams and rivers and the mitigation of erosion and the subsequent silting of waterways and harbours
    b) We support the initiative of creating Coastal Management Plans for the ongoing management of our coastline. Co-ordinated, comprehensive management plans are vital to ensure that community efforts fit with the overall plan and are resources to achieve the plan’s objectives.

Objective 2. The water quality of our harbours and waterways is understood and improving:

  1. a) We totally support the initiative for riparian planting workshops, education and environmental planting networks. Co-ordinated efforts by local individuals and community groups are essential. We would like to endorse the efforts by the Million Metres Streams organisation to engage with community groups to promote riparian planting and note that Auckland Council is already a field partner with them and would like to suggest that the Local Board consider working with them to coordinate efforts in this area.
    b) Promoting and supporting efforts to improve water quality in harbours and waterways is becoming increasingly important to the community. Over the past years development has seen increasing amounts of erosion and silting of waterways and harbours. The Whangateau Harbour Care Group has been monitoring three of the streams entering Whangateau Harbour as part of a Wai Care initiative.

We also note there have been monitoring of sites within the Whangateau Harbour by NIWA however we believe the latest report (TR2017 003 Auckland east coast estuarine monitoring report to October 2015), which claims there is little sedimentary depositing in the harbour, is inaccurate and that sites such as Jack’s Bay in Whangateau Harbour should be monitored as it has significant silting and road gravel deposits. Recent severe flooding of the stream leading into this bay has caused erosion and added to the silt burden flowing into the harbour. Also during a recent visit to Omaha Spit it was noted that there is quite a lot of silt covering shellfish beds adjacent to the spit.

Severe weather events are predicted to become routine as an impact of climate change and we believe that Auckland Council should be investing more into monitoring of harbours and estuaries and also changing some of their maintenance and consent practices to avoid silt and gravel contamination of harbours and estuaries.

We recommend that Auckland Council cease spraying of verges and drains and instead mow them and/or consider a planting programme of ground covers or some other vegetation which will hold the banks of drains and also planting of vegetation other than grass to prevent slips along roadside cuttings.

  1. c) Working with landowners, businesses and key stakeholders to promote sustainable and environmentally friendly work practices is also an initiative we strongly support. The more people are informed and committed to the care, protection and health of our harbours waterways and environment the more successful we can all be at attaining the desired outcomes for the area.

We recommend that Auckland Council institute an education programme for earth moving contractors, builders and landowners on sustainable site development, silt fences and planting to prevent erosion. Also to consider tightening up consent provisions so as to prevent potential silt migration into streams and harbours and ensure consent provisions are rigorously monitored.

Objective 3. Stormwater and wastewater are well managed:

The Whangateau harbour has long been recognised as one of the most pristine water bodies in the Auckland area. However the habitat is undergoing change. Currently, the shellfish beds are closed Page3 following a catastrophic die-off in 2009 and again in 2014 from coccidia and mycobacteria infections of which the environmental contributing factors are unknown.

  1. a) Sewage treatment: During 2016 our group took part in the consultation process for the extension of the Jones Road sewage treatment plant and had discussions with Dan Ducker from EcoMatters regarding private septic tank systems in the Whangateau and Ti Point area. We understand that Point Wells is now being included in this study. The Report from EcoMatters indicates that there are failing septic tank systems, a variety of maintenance regimes and no overall policy or plan for compliance but rather an effort to educate residents with septic systems. Many people said they could not afford to replace their systems.

Our group would like to know specifically what advocacy initiatives the Local Board will undertake to the governing body and Watercare for improvements to the wastewater infrastructure.

  1. b) Stormwater: Over the past year there have been several major storms which deposited a great deal of silt and road gravel into the Whangateau Harbour. The report, TR2009-003 Whangateau Catchment and Harbour Study: Review of Environmental and Socio-economic Information done by the ARC in 2009 highlighted concerns over sedimentation and sewage as contaminants endangering the harbour habitat.

Our group’s recommendation for this is outlined in 2. b) above.

Financing environmental services

Climate change is predicted to result in more severe weather events, sea level rise, inundation, erosion and storm damage to coastlines, harbours and estuaries. We believe that the Auckland Council and its local boards need to consider that this is going to increase costs of mitigation (road maintenance and repair, drainage, sea walls and other methods of holding back the ocean and so on) over time and would like to see more funding allocated to local environment services.

We note in the 2017/18 budget that funding for Local environmental services has decreased $80,000 from $188,000 in the 2015/16 year to $108,000. In the same budget Local parks, sport and recreation operating costs have increased by $136,000 and capital costs $1.588 million. We believe that while it is important to have enhanced parks, sport and recreation facilities these things should not come at the expense of the environment.

In our view significant work needs to be done in monitoring, analysing and planning for a future dominated by climate change.

Liz Allen
Secretary
Whangateau Harbour Care Group
Lews Bay Whangateau
20th June 2017

 

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