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Published: 2006-12-14 00:00:00

Whangamata Harbourcare has received the go-ahead for the hand removal of mangrove seedlings in the Whangamata Harbour and the Omahu Estuary.

The Environment Court has just given approval for a 12 year seedling removal period, with certain conditions to protect bird life, cultural sites and the environment.

Environment Waikato Councillor for the Coromandel, Arthur Hinds, says the Environment Court’s decision provides a common sense approach,.

“The Environment Court’s decision will allow mangrove seedling removal for an extensive timeframe, which means the community can move forward with work on restoring the harbour.”

“All stakeholders need to work together for the benefit of the harbour," he said.

The Environment Court decision follows an appeal by Ngati Whanaunga against an earlier decision by independent Commissioners who, in March 2006, had approved a 20 year seedling removal period. Whangamata Harbour Care had originally sought a term of 30 years, whereas Ngati Whanaunga had sought that the term should be limited to three years. Forests and Bird also appealed, but agreed with a negotiated amendment to the conditions.

“With the resolution of the Environment Court appeal, the hand removal of mangrove seedlings can proceed once Harbour Care have prepared a mangrove seedling management plan in consultation with iwi and DOC, and submitted the plan to Environment Waikato,” Councillor Hinds said.

Mangrove seedlings can be removed between January and July. Mangrove seedling removal from August to December is not permitted, due to the risk of disturbing bird nesting sites.

The area of seedling removal covers a significant part of the harbour foreshore, but excludes removing seedlings within mature mangrove areas, or in specified conservation sites such as in the upper harbour. Only mangrove seedlings with a single stem can be removed and the removal must be by hand only.

Cr Hinds noted also that Environment Waikato staff have already completed the first draft of a comprehensive Harbour Management Plan, which is currently with stakeholder groups for review. The seedling removal will go a long way toward relieving concerns about mangroves spreading in the harbour and gives time to continue current discussions on any further mangrove management in specific locations.

Work has already begun on the rat control programme for the harbour.