Parliament’s Governance and Administration Select Committee has given a huge rebuff to TCDC’s proposals for a local Mangrove Management Bill. The amendments proposed by the Select Committee effectively make the Bill a “toothless tiger”. TCDC’s aim to get wider powers to rip out mangroves willy-nilly has been thwarted.
The Select Committee has recommended the Bill –
- only apply to the Whangamata harbour rather than the whole Thames-Coromandel District and will not apply to Hauraki District,
- has made it subject to many of the existing provisions in the RMA, including the duty to avoid remedy or mitigate adverse effects
- has required that any mangrove plan must give effect to the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement
- made any Council committee considering mangroves to be much more representative including an ecologist, someone representing Waikato Regional Council and at least one iwi representative
- made any mangrove plan approved by TCDC subject to the approval of the Ministers of Local Government and Conservation.
- The definition of mangrove management activity has been watered down and now includes protection and maintenance of mangrove vegetation
- the reference to whole tree removal and maintenance dredging has been removed and only handheld tools may be used
- any mangrove plan must comply with the Local Government Act
- the Bill would have a sunset clause meaning it would be repealed after five years
On its own, the new requirement to give effect to the NZCPS thwarts TCDC’s plans for wholesale mangrove removal because of the NZCPS’s high level directives, for example, to avoid adverse effects on natural character and to avoid any increase in risk of coastal hazards.
Clearly, the Select Committee was unimpressed with the arguments put up by TCDC for this Bill. Rather than turning them down flat (as they should have) – the Committee has recommended a host of amendments which effectively make the Bill a waste of time. Considering the extent of the amendments proposed by the Committee and the new constraints on TCDC, you would have to ask why they would want to pursue it further. Effectively TCDC’s aim to get wider powers to rip out mangroves willy-nilly has been foiled.
Of course, this is only a recommendation of the Select Committee and the Bill has to pass its second and third reading before coming law. I reckon some wiser heads in Parliament are going to look at all the proposed amendments which use RMA provisions and say why bother? – the existing RMA law and the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement already adequately deal with mangrove management issues. There is no need for a special Bill – and this ridiculous piece of proposed legislation is headed for the scrapheap where it belongs.