Thursday, 21 January 2021


Survey to help develop harbour and catchment plan

John Douglas is from the Bay of Plenty, but he’s probably seen more of the Whitianga/Mercury Bay catchment than most who live in the area.

The director of Sustainable Forest & Land Management Limited, John has been travelling throughout the catchment, assessing the current state of the environment from an erosion control and land and river management point of view.

The findings of his survey will help Waikato Regional Council to develop a Whitianga/Mercury Bay Harbour and Catchment Plan to improve land use, water quality and biodiversity in the Whitianga area.

John, who either walked or travelled the catchment by motorbike, says he focused mostly on large properties, those over 100 hectares, checking out riparian zones, waterways and hill country to identify what’s being done well and what issues there are. “Many landowners took me around and were happy to talk about their properties and what they’re doing,” he says. “I got a good insight speaking to landowners, especially those who have been in the catchment a long time.

“I looked at what is fenced and what isn’t, the proximity of races to waterways and where there’s active erosion or erosion risk on land and along rivers.”

John says the land and soil management practices employed by the landowners of the large properties in the catchment are generally good, however, the state of the catchment requires everyone to improve their game because of the downstream effects. “The idea is that we’ll come back in 10 years’ time to repeat my survey and hopefully we’ll see changes for the better,” he says.

WRC’s harbour and catchment advisor, Emily O’Donnell, says John’s assessment will help identify priority areas in need of erosion control and river and land management work. “The reoccurring concerns we hear throughout the catchment is about sedimentation and water quality,” she says.

“John’s catchment condition survey was about looking at land management practices and identifying options for improvement. What has been highlighted through John’s work is that there’s no one source of sediment. We’re likely dealing with historical effects that are already in the system, along with the cumulative effects of land use. We also need to remember that our native forests are vulnerable and the shallow root systems of a regenerating forest are prone to slipping too.”

WRC is also engaging with landowners and environmental experts to understand the key concerns and aspirations for the catchment. Once a Whitianga/Mercury Bay Harbour and Catchment Plan has been developed, it will have to be given effect to by landowners, residents, land managers and supporting government agencies to be successful. “We already work with a range of groups, iwi and landowners in the catchment to address concerns about sedimentation and water quality,” says Emily. “But it’s up to everyone in the community to help out, because we all benefit down the line.”

Pictured: John Douglas has covered a lot of land in the Whitianga/Mercury Bay catchment, sureveying the state of the environment for the development of a plan to improve land use, biodiversity and water quality.


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