An agreement has been reached which will pave the way for Waikato Regional Council to begin limited mangrove removal at Whangamata. This agreement with the appeal parties is now subject to final sign off by the Environment Court.
Late last year, an independent hearings committee agreed the removal of 22 hectares of mangroves after an application from the council’s river and catchment services (RCS) group. RCS had sought permission to clear 31 hectares but there were objections from a variety of parties.
The hearings committee decision to allow 22 hectares clearance was subsequently appealed by Forest & Bird. RCS also appealed the decision to ensure it had full hearing rights when Forest & Bird’s appeal was heard by the Environment Court.
Subsequent to those appeals being lodged, an agreement on proceeding with a slightly different clearance area – covering roughly the same amount of hectares - has been reached by Forest & Bird and RCS. Parties to the original hearing – including the Department of Conservation, the Whangamata Ratepayers Association and Whangamata Harbour Care – have endorsed the agreement.
The Environment Court will be asked to endorse the agreement which allows for the removal of 22.9 hectares, including mature mangroves and a clean up of a previously cleared area. The removal would be in three stages, with the first stage involving trials to confirm the best removal technique for the areas involved.
The agreement provides for a monitoring framework and guidelines developed in conjunction with Dr Carolyn Lundquist from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research.
It is planned that mangroves removed will be disposed of by stockpiling and burning.
The agreement is due to be lodged with the court today and decisions on when work might start would be made after that.
The council’s Whangamata mangroves project manager Emily O’Donnell said it was pleasing that an agreement had been reached, potentially allowing for the start of work and the avoidance of expensive legal proceedings.
“We appreciate that some will feel not enough clearance is being done while others still oppose removal.
“However, the council’s RCS group believes this agreement will allow us to take a cautious and measured approach to undertaking mangrove removal at Whangamata.
“We are keen to keep working closely with all sections of the community as we manage this issue.”