Is there anything happening?
Gosh, I'm like the ‘Road Police’ – sorry; but this is affecting me and my family heaps. We have chemo in Thames every 14 days. It is 2.5hrs each way; 50 minutes if Tapu Road was open. We also have another family member going almost weekly for blood transfusions. I can't be the only one in this boat.
“…..you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."
Joni Mitchell might have struggled to put “mussel spat farm” in the lyrics of her famous song but “harm” is an obvious rhyme!
With a 30-hectare marine farm (that’s what it is no matter what WRC say) just offshore, this magnificent stretch of coastline will no longer be able to be described as an outstanding natural environment. A legal opinion is that the marine farm will “degrade the setting to a point where new or expanded marine farming may be more readily approved”. Another legal finding says that precedent effect means that a consent such as this will strongly influence what happens with other similar applications nearby. Then there will be cumulative effects on the environment as more marine farms are likely to be allowed. It won’t be looking much like paradise then.
Look down into the water, where experts admit invasive marine pests not yet found in Mercury Bay are likely to become established in the ideal conditions of the mussel farm type structure. The seaweed, undaria, known as the gorse of the sea, has been described as one of the most dangerous invasive seaweed species in the world and can change the entire structure of marine ecosystems. It would almost certainly spread to the Marine Reserve.
Dolphins and critically endangered orca are intelligent creatures. Hopefully they can alter their habits to avoid the dangers of entanglement in hundreds of thousands of metres of ropes that may be dangling in the waters where they currently travel, feed and breed. That probably means we won’t be likely to see them around here much anymore.
Likewise, for some of the 10 species of endangered or at-risk seabirds found in this internationally designated Important Bird Area. Flashing marker lights visible 7.4 kilometres away and the noise of boats and winches working up to 12 hours a day for up to 100 days a year may displace some from their habitat in Mercury Bay too.
A resident near a spat farm at Wainui Bay in Marlborough described the noise levels to be “obscene” in that area. That certainly doesn’t sound like paradise!
Would paradise have plastic waste strewn along its coastline? A study by Te Puru school children (part of the Sustainable Coastlines Litter Intelligence Programme) found 161 pieces of plastic debris per 1000 sq metres at Te Puru, much of it identifiably from nearby mussel farms. The comparable litter density at Opito Bay on the east coast was just two items. Ohinau Aquaculture say they will do two beach clean ups a year between Devils Point and Wharekaho, but would that be nearly enough especially if there have been storms?
Private commercial gain may be had from this very special public space but at the expense of paradise lost – and as Joni sang “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”.
Oh well – maybe the sisters of Cyclone Gabrielle will deal to the whole project.
Brilliant idea Warwick Wilson but three slight problems .
Congratulations to Warwick Wilson for thinking outside the box and coming up with his brilliant idea to seek a World Heritage rating for the wider Mercury Bay Area. I can’t think of a better way to achieve a long term sustainable business future within and while maintaining our unique and beautiful environment.
While it would be be a great achievement for something like this to happen, there is a slight problem that would need to be overcome.
This relates to the fact that we are designated as being within the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park (HGMP) established by an Act of Parliament and governed by the Hauraki Gulf Forum. I note: a) that this Forum created the initial zoning for the spat farm Mr Wilson talks so critically about and that; b) the current Government intends to change the makeup of the Hauraki Gulf forum to create a co-governance structure that excludes elected membership and then; c) allow the Forum to monopolise environmental planning over the HGMP, above any other planning regime.
I doubt that the new co-governance structure would approve a localised World Heritage structure within the HGMP when Hauraki Iwi and DOC (the proposed co-governance partners) have waited so long and so desperately to get ultimate control over it.
I have been fortunate enough to represent Mercury Bay on both TCDC and WRC over many years where, unfortunately, I have also witnessed the spread of impenetrable Central Government planning frameworks wrapped up in equally impenetrable co-governance structures.
So, the only way Mr Wilson’s idea will ever float is by a new Act of Parliament that excludes the area identified by Mr Wilson from the current HGMP and that also allows for eventual establishment of a World Heritage Area.
Achieving that would not be an easy ask. And I am not sure if our current batch of elected representatives, who would need to drive the idea, would quite be up to that task, even though they obviously mean well.
But it would be great to be surprised!
Standing room only
Our community in Whitianga and Mercury Bay came out in huge numbers to hear ACT NZ party leader, David Seymour, MP, last Sunday morning, advocating for real change in New Zealand politics. His was a great address as was the discussion and questions on the importance of democratic law. Further, the division being created by ethnicity, which is now prevalent in this country, was discussed with strong agreement from those present that this was not supported in any way.
Moreover, the fact that crime was out of control brought an almost angry response from those present. Education is failing with New Zealand now the 27th in the world, which is and will have disastrous results for a successful economy in the future, and for our first world status again. The communities of Whitianga, Pauanui and Whangamata enjoyed listening to an excellent address by a brilliant speaker.
ACT IVATE Whitianga
ACT New Zealand
Show us your social licence!
What is social licence? It’s when the majority of people affected by a project or law change are generally okay with it.
So how does a business or authority know whether they have social licence for an activity?
First, they have to be open and straight in giving the public full information. Then, they need to listen to peoples’ opinions and concerns and take them into account. If most people agree with what’s proposed, it can be said to have social licence.
In their revised Regional Coastal Plan, the Waikato Regional Council is going to allow marine farming on the eastern coastline of the Coromandel Peninsula, where it has always been a prohibited activity. This would bring huge changes to the outstanding natural character and marine environment of this area.
Has the WRC got social licence for this change?
I’ve found it unbelievably difficult to get any detailed information out of them:
- Why new aquaculture areas should be allowed when the currently designated marine farming zones are not yet fully utilised?
- Where exactly new marine farming zones would be? In the Sea Change Plan, which I’m told is “informing the Coastal Plan Review” and will be “embedded” in it, 13 new aquaculture areas are identified as “indicative preferred areas for new aquaculture space,” e.g. 30 hectares for a mussel farm in Mercury Bay. Another (size unstated) for fin-fish and mussels between Great Mercury and the coast near Whangapoua.
- What rigorous assessment has been made of the suitability of these areas?
- What details are being given to the public for informed community consultation?
- Have people been told they can opt for the status quo –i.e. say no to the change?
- The aquaculture section, in an information booklet given out in 2019 about the Coastal Plan Review, is extremely vague and refers to Section 6 of the Plan. But the Coastal Plan is still, three years later, at draft stage so what help was that?
5000 signatures doesn’t have any effect? The WRC says it has consulted the public through social media, websites and drop-in meetings but how well has that worked? For a start, it’s impossible to be effective if people are not being given straight and adequate information. A fact sheet and a questionnaire sent out with rates demands would be cheap and far-reaching but WRC staff didn’t think much of that suggestion.
They haven’t answered a request to give figures and a-breakdown on the “wide ranging feedback” they claim to have received. Nor will they say whether they will take into account the strong opposition to the very large spat farm granted by consent in Mercury Bay, though 195 people went to the trouble of submitting and more than 5000 signed a digital petition against it.
Meanwhile, I recently discovered that, back at the WRC, staff have already been working on fast-tracking aquaculture in prohibited areas but keeping quiet about it because it might “give rise to a perception of predetermination of issues raised by our local communities.”
In other words, they’re not telling us but they’re going ahead with their own agenda, whatever the public says.
Do they have the social licence to do this? Do they care?
Something is very wrong here! Who will address this? Where is the accountability to the constituents who elected people to govern on our behalf?