Taming the mangrove

ANNA LOREN
Last updated 05:00 04/12/2012
MAgroves
ANNA LOREN

CALLING FOR CHANGE: Mark Erskine is dwarfed by mangroves near his Mangere property.

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Coastal community groups from around the upper North Island are celebrating "possibly the biggest leap forward in 20 years" for mangrove removal.

Hunua MP Dr Paul Hutchison has taken up the call to help the groups push for policy change in the Resource Management Act to allow for widescale removal of mangroves without the need for a resource consent.

The resolution came out of a meeting hosted by Mangere Bridge Residents and Ratepayers late last month.

Mangrove removal groups from Northland to Coromandel were present at the meeting, the outcome of which was "quite remarkable", organiser Mark Erskine says.

"If this is driven through the MPs and through the Environment Minister, then the councils absolutely have to reform or transform their policy and ideology," the Mangere man says.

"It's no longer up to the ratepayers to bang their heads against this very thick concrete wall."

Current policy, as set out in the Auckland Council Regional Coastal Plan, only allows residents to remove mangrove seedlings under 60 cm tall.

The removal of larger plants requires a resource consent - a process both Mr Erskine and Dr Hutchison say is time-consuming and expensive.

"I'm hopeful that we can work through a system towards a process that is much more practical and less costly, keeping in mind that there are two controversial views as to the value of mangroves," Dr Hutchison says.

He'll be pushing for a "low-cost, rapid consent mechanism" for mangrove areas up to 40ha.

And it's hoped that could be extended up to 300ha in special circumstances.

The process could take the form of a "call-in mechanism" where the minister could decide whether or not a proposal would go ahead, he says.

But Auckland Council spokeswoman Penny Pirrit says a blanket 40ha clearance proposal would not address the complexity of mangrove management or its site-specific nature.

"In one area, they may have high natural heritage values, play important ecological roles and assist with erosion control," Ms Pirrit says.

"In another, they may interfere with infrastructure, block access to the coast and spread into areas important for public recreation and amenity uses."

Ms Pirrit says aspects of the current policy and the feedback the council is receiving will be considered further as it is incorporated into the council's Unitary Plan.

People who want to have their say on the policy can do so in March when the draft Unitary Plan will be available for public feedback.

In the meantime, Dr Hutchison and the mangrove removal groups will be pushing for a governmental policy change within the next 12 to 18 months.

"It's a huge worry and I think there's a lot of public good to be done," he says.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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