The Select Committee considering the Mangrove Management Bill is due to publish its Report on 22 June.
If the Committee follows the overwhelming weight of evidence at the hearings in Thames it will throw the Bill out. But even if the Committee comes back with a 50-50 or minority report, the chances of the Bill proceeding still seem remote.
TCDC Mayor Sandra Goudie kicked off submissions on the Bill in Thames with the suggestion that she had been elected several times in the District and was closely in touch with the views of her electorate on this issue. Embarrassingly, the huge weight of submissions from her constituents which followed were strongly opposed to her Bill. It was striking that almost all of the submissions in support of the Bill came from a constituent subset of elderly grey-haired men from Whangamata!
The most powerful submission came from the Forest and Bird Society National Office which was able to demonstrate that in the Bay of Plenty the Resource Management Act was working absolutely fine. All parties had reached a comprehensive settlement using the mediation and other processes available under that Act. It was obvious that this submission from Forest and Bird strongly resonated with the Select Committee.
My money is on the Select Committee accepting the overwhelming weight of submissions in opposition to the Bill.
But even if there is some divided minority Select Committee report, it is clear that Ministers in the new government – particularly the Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage – have no patience for the Thames-Coromandel District Councils push to have their own exclusive law to remove mangroves.
In a recent speech Minister Eugenie Sage made these comments about the Bill –
“There is a local bill in Parliament at the moment, seeking an easier approval mechanism for removing mangroves. That’s because many people see mangrove spread as a problem. The real problem is sediment. We mistreat the land, resulting in sheet and gully erosion. The sediment goes into our rivers, damaging water quality and ecosystems. Then it flows into the coast, where it kills shellfish, turning sand and shell bottom systems into mud. Which mangroves love.
So mangrove spread is good, because it makes that new mud bottom a productive marine ecosystem. But it is a symptom of a serious problem – sedimentation. We need to leave the mangroves where they are but go back upstream and fix the root problem – unsustainable farming practices and badly controlled urban developments. Once that is fixed, the mangroves will probably retreat again, as shell banks and rock platforms reappear.
That’s what happened in Whaingaroa Harbour, where riparian planting in the catchment reduced sediment inputs, and existing sediment flushed out, leaving rock platforms and recovering seagrass beds.
With climate change, including sea level rise, our natural coastal edges will become even more important. Mangroves, kelp beds and saltmarshes help to reduce wave energy, reducing the risk of erosion, and reducing storm surge impacts. And dunes, spits, and other natural features allow the coast to absorb sea and wind effects, keeping the land further back safe.
These under-rated ecosystem services will be vital as our climate changes. We cannot afford the sort of hard structures that would do the same job, and we would not be as happy living with the resulting coastline.”
What could be clearer than that?