Community split over mangroves

VANITA PRASAD AND ANNA LOREN
Last updated 09:54 13/09/2012
mangroves
VANITA PRASAD

MURKY WATERS: Manukau Harbour Forum deputy chairman Neil Henderson looks over Little Muddy Creek in Laingholm.

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Neil Henderson knows just how murky the waters are when it comes to dealing with Auckland's spreading mangrove forests.

As the deputy chairman of Auckland Council's Manukau Harbour Forum he's heard from groups calling for both the preservation and destruction of the plants.

Mangere resident Mark Erskine is among residents urging the council to overhaul its mangrove management policy. He says the policy, which now allows residents to remove mangrove seedlings under 60cm tall, is not practical.

It also does not account for the "trillions" of seeds the mature plants release into the water three times a year. An overhaul of council policy would bring it in line with the 2010 New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement which removed mangroves from the flora listed as being "of any benefit whatsoever" to the coastal environment, Mr Erskine says.

But the council is sticking firm to its mangrove management policy updated in 2010 in response to issues arising from the spread of mangroves in parts of Auckland.

Mr Henderson is encouraging West Aucklanders to have their say about where they stand in a submission to the council's draft Unitary Plan.

He likens the debate over whether mangroves should stay or be removed to climate change.

"They've got science and emotion on both sides. One study shows they're bad and another will contradict that," he says.

Mr Henderson says while mangroves are acting like a weed it's a result of man-made processes such as dumping waste water into harbours.

Waikato University professor of biological sciences Dr Warwick Silvester agrees with those against mangroves.

"As manuka is the weed of the forests, mangroves are the weed of the estuaries," he says.

Former Te Atatu Boat Club commodore Len Whysall wants the mangroves to go.

“I remember when I was at highschool in 1957 when we'd bike down the road by the club and swim at the beach every day in summer," he says.

"It was a shell sand beach and the water was pristine."

He wants them cleared from Te Atatu's shoreline so another generation can enjoy the beach.

But Te Atatu Peninsula resident Michael Coote and the Traherne Island Trappers say the mangroves are beneficial.

The trappers are part of Forest and Bird's Motu Manawa Restoration Group which protect wildlife on Pollen and Traherne Islands in the Waitemata Harbour.

Mr Coote says the protected mangrove reserve is home to many species.

"We went out there recently and there were a lot of snapping shrimp, white faced herons and footprints of banded rails everywhere.

"Fishermen should really want people to keep their hands off mangroves because they're an important area for fish to respawn and help restock the fish supply," he says.

Mr Coote says the removal of mangroves should be done on a case-by-case basis.

"There will be some areas where mangroves never used to exist where people would have good cause to want them removed.

"But I don't think we should get rid of them just because some people think they look bad."

Mr Henderson says before the forum looks to remove mangroves Auckland's water quality needs to be improved.

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"It's the silt and runoff from our streams that are contributing to the spread. If we don't clean the water the mangroves will just come back."

Council spokesman Glyn Walters says: "The current regulatory framework acknowledges both positive and negative aspects of mangroves and strikes an appropriate balance within its policies and rules."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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