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Published: 2012-12-19 00:00:00

Waikato Regional Council’s river and catchment services group has lodged a consent application to clear mature and juvenile mangroves from Tairua harbour.

The consent application is part of the Tairua harbour and catchment management plan developed in conjunction with the Tairua, Pauanui and Hikuai communities.

The proposal was consulted on in the 2012 long-term plan, with more than 100 submissions received on the topic. While the vast majority were in support, a number raised concerns about the potential costs to gain and implement the consent, particularly if it involved an Environment Court hearing.

If approved, some 11 hectares of actual mangrove removal will take place at eight locations within a designated 23 hectare area at Tairua.

The removal is proposed to start in March next year, pending granting of the resource consent.

The operation would lead to the clearance of about a third of the mature mangroves in Tairua, while mangrove seedlings would be removed from the rest of the harbour. The work has the backing of the Tairua–Pauanui Community Board and the Tairua Harbour Committee.

“If the Tairua consent process looks like proceeding to an Environment Court hearing we will revisit our plans,” said project manager Emily O’Donnell.

“However, steps are being taken to ensure costs are kept to a minimum and to hopefully avoid any court proceedings. Our experience with Wharekawa and Whangamata is proving valuable in this respect,” said Ms O’Donnell, who is also managing mangrove clearance at Whangamata.

The funds for the Tairua clearance are due to come from a targeted rate on the Tairua catchment area. This way of paying was agreed to by a majority who submitted on the Tairua clearance funding method suggested in the council’s long-term plan. The amount will be dependent on the actual costs to gain and implement the consent.

Ms O’Donnell said the council wanted to clear mangroves to maintain or enhance ecological, social, and cultural values in the harbour, and to clear water channels for flood control purposes.

“The proposal is framed up to look at the complete vegetation sequences in each of the areas. This allows us to look at the habitat values, opportunities for enhancement, pest control and planting, as well as mangrove removal. There is some fantastic coastal habitat in the Tairua harbour that we want to enhance. This is reflected in the presence in high number of rare bird species.”

The specific positive benefits expected to stem from the proposed removal include maintenance and enhancement of:

  • recreational and amenity values
  • native sea grass and salt marsh vegetation by removal of competing vegetation
  • habitat for wildlife including birds and fish that inhabit, frequent and/or nest or spawn in the area
  • cultural values and practices in the area by improving indigenous habitats and restoring kai moana harvesting areas

Ms O’Donnell said the effects on banded rail birds from mangrove removal would be no more than minor, and iwi groups had been supportive of the application.

“We’re hoping to have our resource consent application processed as soon as possible and will keep the community informed on progress.”

The proposed mangrove removal is part of existing work already started under a scheme to enhance coastal vegetation around Tairua. Other work being carried out under the scheme includes planting around the harbour, and control of pest plants and animals.