Gorse spraying at Whitirea Park gets short reprieve

BY MICHAEL KOPP
Last updated 11:09 23/11/2010

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Aerial spraying of gorse in the 85 fire-burnt acres of Whitireia Regional Park at Porirua, was delayed last week when the Titahi Bay Residents Association (TBRA) sought an interim injunction against it.

Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC), after objections by the residents association and the Friends of Whitireia, including two members who are also on the Whitireia Park Board, held off the spraying, which was to have begun last Tuesday.

TBRA chairman Graeme Ebbett claimed at least three assertions by the regional council in our November 16 article were false.

He said the Department of Conservation giving permission to GWRC to spray, and the regional council's process, were illegal.

The TBRA affidavit asked for an interim enforcement order to prohibit GWRC from spraying the park because of the risk to the environment, lack of community consultation, widespread community opposition and the lack of authority to spray.

The request was thrown out by a judge last Friday and the spraying will begin this Thursday, weather permitting.

On November 16 we reported GWRC saying a sustainable management plan for the park had been approved.

Mr Ebbett said that was incorrect - there was no consultation, there was no draft plan and it was not approved. Last week GWRC finally circulated a draft plan with many blank pages and missing parts.

Mr Ebbett said the board had at no time approved the spraying of double metasulfuron spray. He said the manufacturer's warnings about the spray refute the council's claims of low toxicity.

GWRC said the spray would be done away from streams, the seashore, and wetlands. Spraying close to delicate areas would be done on foot. However, the council's circular to residents shows a map of the spraying area which includes those protected areas. Mr Ebbett said runoff would pollute water.

The initial decision to approve the spraying, made at a DoC meeting, was not actionable as there was no quorum. A "teleconference meeting" was held to approve the spraying. The meeting was non-public and non-notified.

Regional councillor for Porirua Jenny Brash said the teleconference decision had simply remedied a "technical irregularity" and the process wasn't illegal.

She was incensed about the threat of delay, saying if the spraying didn't occur now it would be deferred until next April, when the fire risk of the gorse would have returned.

"The consequences of this would be dire, and a lot of local people would be extremely angry."

Ms Brash said she was pleased the issue was settled.

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