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Letters to the Editor

Re Environment Matters - suffering of Dolphins

Further to an excellent but chilling article in last week’s Informer (Issue 1068) on the potential serious effects of aquaculture activities on our dolphin population:

The aquaculture areas referred to in the article are the 30 ha in Mercury Bay for which resource consent has been granted for a mussel spat farm and the enormous 300 ha caged finfish farm (for kingfish I understand) which is to be allowed by a proposed plan change (private) to the Waikato Regional Council (WRC) Regional Coastal Plan. This will of course create a precedent which could likely, be rapidly followed.

Both these areas were among 13 around the Coromandel in the aspirational, non-statutory Sea Change Plan as “likely to be appropriate for aquaculture.” Though careful scientific study evaluation was to supposed to have been done to identify potential adverse effects before plans were proceeded with, as far as I can find out, there have been no such objective scientific studies. Fine words seem to be all too easily obliterated by $$$ signs.

Do you know that another area identified as appropriate for finfish farming is between Great Mercury Island and the Coromandel Peninsula. I wonder how many hectares that might be!

The local DOC office admits it does not keep a data base on the number, species, or behaviour of marine mammals and birds in greater Mercury Bay. Even so, despite no reliable information or baseline statistics, the WRC is able to somehow conclude that effects from aquaculture won’t be significant if they (who exactly?) pay, “particular attention to their threat status and how effects on these species can be avoided”.

What can be done? Rather than rely on a distracted and cash-strapped DOC, a group of local people is planning to take matters into their own hands. They are inspired by orca expert, Ingrid Visser who almost singlehandedly, built up and maintains a comprehensive data base about the 200 remaining critically endangered NZ Orca, largely by enlisting the aid of the general public to report sightings. The local Mercury Bay group, with the guidance of experienced marine scientists, intends to set up and monitor a website and dedicated phone where reports of dolphins and other marine mammals, their numbers, behaviour etc can be logged so that essential baseline data can be recorded and evaluated.

Watch this space!

Annie Stewart

Seabird Coast

Whispir or Whimpir?

We’ve all heard of the terrible tragedy in Laihana, Maui. Wildfires moving with unimaginable speed, overtaking and destroying everything in their path. Possibly up to 1000 deaths. Warning sirens that would have alerted the whole population not activated. – instead, officials relied on confusing social media posts that reached a much smaller audience. Cell phone alerts were soon useless because transmission towers were destroyed, and power was out. Maui’s emergency chief resigned. A terrible thought must burden him forever that men, women and children died horrible deaths that could possibly in some cases been avoided if they’d had more adequate warning.

Thank goodness nothing like that could ever happen here, we think. But think a little harder!

A study released in the last couple of weeks by scientists from 16 countries studying the Hikurangi Subduction Zone, NZ’s largest and most active fault, has “uncovered critical new knowledge forecasting a 25% chance of a major event on that fault in the next 50 years”. This could cause massive earthquakes and tsunamis – a “huge hazard” to east coast communities. Not death and destruction by fire but by water.

As Murray pointed out in a letter in last week’s The Informer, there’s a lesson here for TCDC.

They won’t have to worry about turning on warning sirens because there aren’t any. They’ve been decommissioned. Replaced with what? Whispir. Supposedly this can quickly send out alerts via social media, websites, txts and voice calls (that’s if there’s power and cell towers are working – see above, or ask anyone in the Esk Valley or Tairawhiti)

Whispir, better described as a dog or a Whimpir, was to have been online by December 2021 but there’s been a “glitch” It’s not operational. Nothing is. Scandalously, we are without any warning system.

Is there any quick fix? Well actually, yes. Our local radio station CFM is on air 24/7. Obviously, it can’t replace the immediate warning of a tsunami alarm, but it can provide a vital source of ongoing information. It has its own generator, so can survive power outages. It performed brilliantly during Gabrielle. For what reason is this important community resource not being widely and inexpensively publicised by the TCDC and WRC?

Get yourself a cheap transistor radio and batteries. And ask some questions of Civil Defence Controller, Garry Towler. How can he sleep at night knowing how vulnerable hundreds of families are because there is no emergency warning system on our coast, despite a scientifically identified clear threat of tsunami. It’s his job!

Helen Vivian


Cathedral Cove walkway Maybe I’m overly cynical, but the notice recently from DOC that the Cathedral Cove walkway will not be opened this summer sounds a lot like “full of sound and fury signifying nothing, “or more simply a justification for not spending the money. This icon of our area is one of the biggest draw cards for tourists to visit our town. Will our beautiful local beaches be enough to entice tourists to take the longer trip to Whitianga? Other locations have beautiful beaches too, but they don’t have a Cathedral Cove. Quite frankly, it’s hard to believe that our professional DOC staff are unable to build stairs and stabilise paths to access the Cove in four months till our peak summer season. We have seen a lot of our mayor advocating for SH25a to be fast tracked and even photos of our local MP at the bridge worksite. This pressure has worked. We have not heard an outcry from Destination Coromandel, our MP, our mayor or our Community Board saying to DOC get moving and get our Cathedral Cove walkway open again. Please do better than the current resounding silence and put a bit of pressure on to help keep our local businesses, reliant on tourism, alive and well.

Pieta Begley Whitianga

Apology instead of criticism

Thank you to Elisabeth from Kuaotuna for her summing up of TCDC’s “petty, patronising, and confrontational” statement with regard to the Informers coverage of the Whitianga Residents and Ratepayers Meeting. Had Elisabeth attended the meeting I have no doubt she would have been even more shocked at the slanderous debacle that erupted. I would have anticipated that the previous (official) Chair, Mayor Len Salt would have been extremely grateful to Stan for carefully avoiding any comments whatsoever on what could have been an extraordinarily damaging news item. A humble apology from TCDC to the Informer should be the order of the day?

Stan’s integrity and that of the Informer remain intact. About the rest? Watch this space.



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