The History of Whangamata Harbour Care
Harbour Care was originally sustained by a small group of personal led by Councillor Brian Grant. The Working Group was a tight functional Group, and included Councillor Brian Grant, Lester Giles, Rae Giles, John Dick, Hans Zurr and Brian Airey who quietly worked at stopping the ingress of Mangroves into our Harbour over a period of 16years.
Following discussion with the Whangamata Community Board, initiated by Councillor Brian Grant, it was a resolved to hold a Public meeting to gauge the Public interest about the deteriorating condition of the Whangamata Harbour.
The Public meeting of interested community members was called to consider the invasion of our Harbour by Mangroves and the raising of the Harbour seabed by the mud trapped by the mangroves plant and the loss of Habitat for birds and fish.
The Whangamata Harbour Care Incorporated Society was formed in 1999 to address this situation and was helped on its way with funding from TCDC of $1000 and then Environment Waikato by donating $2000. Councillor Brian Grant was elected Chair and gathered a willing band of helpers to address the concerns of the Public.
Whangamata Harbour Care applied for a Resource Consent for a trial to remove 4000 Square metres of mature mangroves from Patiki Bay. The Consent WRC 102475 cost $7500 and was granted in June 1999 and removal was undertaken by the community in July 2000.
Significant Scientific assistance was given by Dr Brian Coffey, B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D. Botany, Zoology, Geology, Chemistry and survey work was undertaken by Stewart Group Ltd.
The work was undertaken by volunteers and cost wise only required relatively small, community funded removal costs.
Harbour Care applied for a further non notified Resource Consent for removal of mangroves in Patiki Bay and this was granted in May 2002 and the mangroves were removed in 2004 using a tractor, a very long rope to haul the cut mangroves to shore and many voluntary helpers. The area of mangroves removed was that area remaining in Patiki Bay (outside the experimental removal trial area). The cost for the second consent from Waikato Regional Council, was paid for jointly by Thames Coromandel District Council and Waikato Regional Council and was $33,000.
About 2005 Whangamata Harbour Care applied for a Resource Consent from Waikato Regional Council for removal of Mangrove Seedlings and a ten year consent was approved in late 2007. Whangamata Harbour Care Inc. with the help of our Community have been annually removing seedlings under this consent. The cost for this work was a BBQ for the workers that was partly funded by Regional Council from funding that we understand is from money set aside for work in the Coromandel and paid for through local property Regional Council Rates
Then the battle started to obtain a Resource Consent for what was hoped would be removal of the 75 hectares of mangroves still left standing and expanding each year.
During 2007 WRC started consultation with the Community on the removal of mangroves from our Harbour. Following the consultation Regional Council realised that there was a real concern with the Mangrove spread in our Harbour.
At a Waikato Regional Council meeting a motion was passed, instructing staff to take steps to apply for and obtain a Resource Consent from itself for the removal of 75 hectares of mangroves. The Whangamata Community ratepayers were then approached in 2009 to fund the cost of this Resource Consent and the Mangrove removal at the stated estimated cost of $309,000. This work was to be undertaken over 5 years for the removal of the reduced area of only 26 hectares of mangroves.
The funding approved was for a cost per Whangamata Ratepayer of $15 per annum. 87% of the Whangamata Ratepayers gave consent to WRC to charge them annually for the cost of the Resource Consent and removal of an estimated 26 Hectares the Mangroves. According to information from Regional Council 909 ratepayers gave approval to the request for funding approval.
WRC Resource consent application
It was not until 2010 Waikato Regional Council River and Soils Division finally made application to Regional Council’s Resource Users Group for a Resource Consent for removal of now 38 hectares of mature mangroves.
In 2012 the Resource Consent application was considered by Commissioners, chosen by Regional Council staff, and, on behalf of Regional Council, granted a Resource Consent to its self for the removal of 22.57 Ha of mangroves, not 26 that was the basis of the original funding agreement and less than a third of that originally requested. Included in that total area was Area “d”, 4 hectares of Mangroves that had already been removed without authority by the community and situated on the upstream side of the Causeway Bridge. So the effective area approved was only 18.57 Ha. The consent was then the subject of an appeal by Forest and Bird and Department of Conservation.
The effective area was later further reduced when Regional Council staff decided not to remove 4 Ha of Mangroves in area “i” because of the difficulties of machine operation due to the mud depth in this area. Despite requests from Harbour Care this area was not permitted to be reallocated to the area known as area “e” and situated upstream of the Causeway bridge.
Five years after the original application was made the consent was granted but the total Consent cost at this stage to our Community was over $1,000,000 and no Mangroves had been removed.
Since then the removal of Mangroves has proceeded and the cost to our community is in excess of the maximum requested sum and on 2018 figures, $1.46 million has been spent.
As part of this Consent, Whangamata Harbour Care were given permission by the Consent manager at the time, to remove 2.33 hectares of mangroves from what was known area “f” and situated adjacent to the end of Durrant Drive. These mangroves were removed by the cut, stack and burn system. The total cost of this work to our Community by the Voluntary work of Whangamata Harbour Care and its supporters, was sausages, bread and onions etc. for the BBQ after each day’s voluntary work. This cost did not include the Regional Councils staff supervision and office costs. Although the work undertaken produced excellent results the Regional Council have since steadfastly refused to allow Whangamata Harbour Care to be further involved in mangrove removal siting, Health and Safety concerns.
The Waikato Regional Council River and Soils Division Coromandel office have organised the removal of the remaining Mangroves, in accordance with the terms and conditions of the Resource Consent. This work has at times included the use of a traxcavator and Digger with disastrous damage to the Harbour bed. The Council tried to pull out the Mangroves and stack them with the intention to burn them but as the removal included the whole trees, including the roots, the amount of mud placed in the heaps made it impossible to burn. These heaps had to be removed from the Harbour bed by the dump trucks and this did a lot of damage to the harbour bed.
By Comparison 2012 to Waikato Regional council for Seedling removal specifically restricted the density of Volunteers on the Harbour bed to six persons per 2500 Square Metre area. At no time was Whangamata Harbour Care consulted on the use of heavy machinery option and therefore the local knowledge and experience was ignored and the Community had to pay for this disastrous experiment.
The final area to be removed was about a Hectare in area “e”, the Moana Anu Anu Estuary adjacent to Whangamata Township, and clearance of the adjacent Drainage channels. This area was removed by manual cutting down the Mangroves and stacking for removal in bags by Helicopter at a quoted figure of $125,000 per hectare. This area of clearance was further reduced by the Waikato Regional Councils Coromandel District Office because a further small area of unauthorised clearance adjacent to Area “d” had been made.
The costs at this stage had significantly exceeded that approved by the Whangamata Community so some of that cost had to be debited against the greater Coromandel District.
As the Whangamata Harbour Care Resource Consent for removal of Mangrove Seedlings had expired in 2019 we tried working under the Waikato Regional Councils River and Soils Division Consent granted in 2010. In Whangamata Harbour Cares opinion the conditions placed on the workers were unacceptable compared to that existing under the previous consent so Whangamata Harbour Care formally notified the Coromandel Office of Waikato Regional Council that that we would not undertake Seedling removal if we had to follow their strict interpretation of the Consent conditions.
We believe that the Community has the expertise to remove Mangroves and Mangrove Seedlings without damage to the sea floor, as has been the case with the vehicles used by Waikato Regional Council and its contractors, and the cost to the community would be negligible.
We believe that our Thames Coromandel District Council has the expertise to prepare a workable plan to manage Mangroves within Coromandel and such a plan while covering a much greater area would be able to be put in place at a reasonable cost to all our communities.
Four members of our group recognised for their outstanding effort and contribution at the Community Service Awards 2019
Left to right: Ian Feasey, John Dick,Brian Grant,Brian Airey,