Hey Stuart Nash Maui’s dolphins are approaching extinction

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Christine Rose posted in November 2017 her concerns about Minister of Fisheries Stuart Nash wanting to delay the roll out of cameras on fishing boats to monitor what they were catching.  She described the background in the following terms:

Maui and Hector’s dolphins, found only here in New Zealand, have the dubious status of being among the world’s rarest. They’re the symbol of all the bad we’re doing to the oceans. But worst of all known threats to these tiny dolphins are fishing related impacts, when they get caught and drown.

The Department of Conservation has a long list of incidents with Maui and Hector’s dolphins killed in nets, right up to the present day. Historically both recreational and commercial nets did the damage, but these days it’s mostly trawling that’s killing the dolphins. Probably only a few of the actual dead dolphins are reported, but some have washed up, eviscerated, partially weighted, in failed illicit disposal attempts. Others would never be found.

Research from the University of Auckland Business School shows that at least 2.7 times more fish was caught in the New Zealand fishery from 1950-2010, than reported. News last week focussed on penguin populations off Southland being destroyed by trawling. New Zealand Sea Lions are hanging on for dear life because of entrapment in squid nets. Seabird by-catch is untold.

Under pressure from these sorts of facts the government has planned to implement electronic video monitoring systems on the NZ fishing fleet. The National Government also promised an increase in fisheries observer coverage up to 100% in ‘core’ Maui dolphin habitat by 2017. So far, to protect these critically endangered dolphins, observer coverage is at about 18%, at the cost of reduced observer coverage elsewhere.

Electronic monitoring has been supported to achieve ‘’100%” observer coverage. This has been defended by even National Party Ministers and MPs, who have seen it would ‘rebuild trust and confidence’ in the fishing industry, and have a deterrent effect on illegal practices. On the other hand, Glen Simmons from the University of Auckland said that if the true cost of overfishing and by-catch was considered, many in the fishing fleet would be out of business, so widespread are transgressions. The fishing industry itself hasn’t been so keen on full transparency, with fishing interests calling for a ‘pause’ on the camera implementation.

She concluded by saying this:

In the absence of a comprehensive observer coverage programme; but in light of unsustainable dumping and by-catch of non-target species including endangered dolphins, sea lions, and seabirds; a culture of obfuscation in MPI; and self-regulation and capture by the fishing industry, a resolute approach from the Minister is required.

In citing fishing sector privacy and cost concerns rather than addressing the issues that would make the video monitoring more robust, Minister Nash appears to have been quickly won over by vested interests in the fishing industry. His decision to ‘pause’ the programme, echoing the words of fishing representatives, puts the industry, the enforcement regime, the dolphins, and the Government’s reputation, at risk.

I had hoped that the November decision was just a pause for the Minister to catch his breath and then proceed with a scheme which is that conservative even National agreed to it.  But there are worries that Nash is wanting to finish the scheme.  As reported by Idiot Savant Nash is considering canning the roll out of cameras, not just delaying it.

From Radio New Zealand:

The government is considering scrapping the rollout of cameras on commercial fishing vessels altogether.

Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash said many in the fishing industry were unhappy with the camera proposal and all options were on the table – including dumping it entirely.

One of Mr Nash’s first moves when he became the Fisheries Minister was to put the brakes on the rollout of electronic monitoring of the commercial fishing fleet.

The former National government came up with the plan last year, saying it would protect the sustainability of fish stocks and act as a deterrent against illegal activity, like fish dumping.

But Mr Nash said National forced it upon the sector, and he was getting advice from officials on what should be done.

“There are certainly concerns in the industry that there hasn’t been a proper process followed and a complete and utter lack of consultation.

“That does seem to be the prevailing attitude but we haven’t made any final decision on that,” he said.

Mr Nash said ditching the programme entirely was one of the options being considered.

“We could continue the project as it is, we could delay it – at the extreme we could dump it.”

There are rational voices who are worried  about how well the new system would work.  But the problem is there are probably less than 55 Mauis dolphins left. And if nothing else the deterrence effect that cameras offer will hopefully delay further deaths.  Doing nothing should not be an option.  And the status quo will mean a gradual slide to extinction.

As said by Christine Rose:

The electronic monitoring isn’t perfect. It can be turned off, obstructed or obscured. The recorded information is to be analysed by a consortium of fishing interests. There are fears that video evidence might not always be admissible in court. Refinements are needed to improve reliability, security and transparency. But it’s better than the alternative, mostly nothing. Either way, more observer coverage is essential for sustainability of fish stocks and associated ecosystems, not less.

The strange system where a Fishing Industry controlled organisation monitors the cameras needs to be reviewed.  The head company includes amongst its shareholders one of the Tally brothers, well known for his largesse to various political campaigns.  Allowing an industry to monitor itself is bound to fail.

So I think it important that the camera installation continues.  No doubt there will be problems but it will at least deter fishing boats from engaging in illegal practices.  And if this is insufficient then gill nets should be banned.  Maui’s dolphins are facing extinction and we need to do whatever we can to ensure their survival.

What does Auckland Council do now about Kauri dieback?

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There is news that Te Kawerau A Maki’s rahui on the Waitakere Ranges is having some effect but not as much as hoped.  From Jamie Morton at the Herald:

While the rahui appeared to have discouraged many visitors in the days after it was declared in early December, the findings of surveys undertaken since suggested that was no longer the case.

Although figures hadn’t been collated, vehicle counts outside the park indicated a high number of visitors this summer.

Of more than 1100 people approached by one council-employed kauri dieback ambassador in the week before Christmas, only a dozen chose to turn back because of the rahui.

Others approached this month voiced confusion over the park being open or closed, with one woman noting a sign at the entrance advising people of the rahui.

Another couple were reported as saying they knew about the rahui, but argued it was “up to the council” to close the ranges.

“We are Europeans, so we will listen and respect the final word of those who have the power to shut or leave the tracks open.”

Councillors last month considered a park-wide closure among five options, but voted to undertake targeted closures of affected tracks and areas.

Many people that I know support the Rahui.  But it is inevitable that unless further steps are taken by Auckland Council use of diseased tracks will continue and the disease will keep spreading.

Council is due to look at the issue in a couple of weeks and to make decisions on the next steps to be taken.  One of the resolutions that the Environment and Community Committee of Council passed in December was to “request staff to report to the Environment and Community Committee in February 2018 on options for stepped up track improvement and upgrades, public education, enforcement options and effectiveness, effectiveness monitoring, capital and operating costs associated with option four for consideration in the Long-term Plan 2018-28”.  It will be interesting to see what the report proposes.

One area that Council will have to address is the closure of further tracks.

The resolutions passed by Council in December were described as being a “modified option four”.  The Local Board took the position that of all of the options presented to Council option 4, the closure of all high and medium risk tracks, was the appropriate decision.  This would act to protect pristine stands and also quarantine diseased areas while allowing no or low risk tracks to remain open.

The quarantining of areas I believe is very important because it is clear from the maps that the disease is spreading like a cancer along the tracks.  It does not matter how carefully people clean their shoes, once they walk in a diseased area the disease will then be spread along the track.  Cleaning shoes does not make them immune to spreading the disease.  No kauri near a diseased track will be safe.

It was originally recommended to Council by staff that it adopts “option 3” which was the closure of 13 new tracks and the permanent decommissioning of a further 9 tracks as well as the continued temporary closure of 2 tracks.  Since the meeting a total of 42 tracks are now closed.  The recommended number in option 3 was 24.

But is it enough?  There are scores of medium and high risk tracks still open.

I recently inspected the start of a couple of tracks to see what was happening.  In Piha on Glen Esk Road there was a large number of people enjoying the walk to the nearby Kitekite falls.  The track is marked as high risk.  Nearby is the Maungaroa Ridge Track which is heavily diseased.

But the carpark was full and clearly designated overflow parking was available.

Rather than respecting the Rahui my impression is that the response to the Rahui was very underwhelming.  The least Council should be doing is taking away the welcome signs.  And it should be considering hard options such as closing carparks.

Staff say that closing tracks such as this one will not work because people will walk them anyway.  But I believe this view is misguided.  They are correct that it will not deter all humans, nothing ever does.  But by closing tracks and car parking areas a significant number will be deterred from walking.  And reduced numbers is not a matter of failure but of success.  The fewer people that walk on tracks the less likely it will be that the disease will be spread.

And the positioning of the warning signs is underwhelming.

The other aspect of the crisis that will need urgent attention is the provision of more resources.  The long term plan decisions which Council is currently consulting on will be a very important aspect of this.

A draft budget that was being worked on proposed that there be a $465 million boost to the environmental spend.  A good chunk, about $100 million of that would address kauri dieback.

Mayor Phil Goff has adjusted the figure down slightly in his Mayoral Proposal.  He suggested that over the next ten years Council spends a further $84 million on Kauri Dieback.  It was estimated that this would reduce the threat of it spreading from over 80% to about 40%.  An attempt to increase this amount further was unfortunately lost at the December Finance and Performance Committee Meeting.

The proposal will result in a significant increase in spending on Kauri Dieback and is welcome because of this.  But I would prefer the prospects of success in stopping the spread of the disease were closer to zero than 40%.

And there are signs that Central Government is preparing to play a more significant role.  From Radio New Zealand:

The government has toughened its stance on kauri dieback, announcing moves that would force people going into affected areas to comply with any restrictions.

Councils can ask visitors to take measures like disinfecting their boots or staying away from tracks, but cannot make it compulsory.

The Ministry for Primary industries said it would work to put formal controls in place.

It would also start a National Pest Management strategy, giving kauri dieback the sort of biosecurity status previously awarded to the kiwifruit disease PSA or bovine tuberculosis.

The ministry has previously been criticised by scientists and conservation groups for a lack of action on the disease.

We are reaching crunch time for the Waitakere Ranges.  Kauri is a cornerstone species of the Waitakere Forest and if they die out there will be an irrevocable change.  We owe it to the Waitakere Ranges to do our best to save the King of the forest.

RIP Denise Yates

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With a great deal of sadness I wish to note that Denise Yates, a member of the Waitakere Ranges Local Board has died.

Denise and I go back a long way. I was involved in her election as a Waitakere City Councillor in 2000 during a by election. We were both then elected as Councillors in 2001 but met the same fate in 2004 when the electorate decided we should take time out. We were both then elected to the inaugural Waitakere Ranges Local Board in 2010 and Denise continued to serve until recently.

Denise was the inaugural chairperson of the Local Board. She was always energetic and passionate in everything that she did. She had a strong moral compass and a clear set of principles that she worked under. She would decide on what was right and then seek to achieve this result. Whether it was rights for the gay and lesbian community or workers rights she stuck to her principles and proudly championed their causes.

She was a passionate protector of the local environment and worked hard to ensure that the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act was passed and its principles supported.

She also enjoyed the human contact side of the role. She knew a huge number of people in the local area and nothing was more enjoyable for her than meeting and talking with people. She had a real compassion for people.

It was a shock when I learned how ill she was. Until Christmas she was still performing her role as a board member with dedication and distinction.

My best wishes go to Jo, Brenda, Mark and all the other members of her whanau.

We should always struggle for what is right and we should never give up. Denise fought the good fight all her life and never gave up.

She will be missed.

If you want to walk in the Waitakere Ranges and respect the Rāhui …

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Te Kawerau a Maki has updated its list of tracks and areas where people can walk and not breach the Rāhui.

From a press release by TKAM:

Executive Manager Edward Ashby said “We’d like the public to celebrate and enjoy all the beautiful parts of the park not covered in trees, so we thought we’d release a quick update.”

“Just to be clear that the forest does not include: the roads, beaches, open space land adjacent to beaches, wetlands, lakes, dunes, paddocks, rocks, meadows, grass berms, cafes, the sea, golf courses, houses or surf clubs.”

Celebrate “living on the edge” by visiting spectacular lookouts such as the Spragg Monument at Cornwallis and the Tasman Lookout Track at Piha.

Enjoy “views and vistas” by climbing to the bench seat at Pukehuhu at Whatipu to look out over the Manukau Heads or by visiting the Huia Lookout where you can see the whole Manukau Harbour.

“Dive into it” by walking round the north side of Lake Wainamu at Te Henga from the carpark to the waterfalls and cool off with a dip in the swimming holes. Just don’t continue round the lake in the forest but go back the way you came.

“Climb the cliffs” on the Te Henga Walkway and enjoy spectacular views across the Tasman.

Enjoy “lunch and a latte” after you’ve walked Exhibition Drive in Titirangi or visit the Huia Store after a hike along the Huia Dam Road.

Of course all the beaches remain open and “walking the dog” is still possible along the Kakamatua track to the beach, but please keep dogs on a lead until you reach the beach and always scrub and spray your shoes.

Tracks that are outside the area of the Rāhui and can be walked on include:

Titirangi:  Exhibition Drive;

Cornwallis:  Monument Track;  Track to Spragg monument;  Kakamatua Beach Walk

Huia:  Huia Dam Road;  Tracks at Hinge Bay beach;  Huia Lookout Track

Whatipu:  Track to beach;  Whatipu Caves Track;  Track to bench seat at Pukehuhu only (do not continue along Omanawanui Track);  Signal House Track;  Whatipu Coast Walk

Karekare:  Pohutukawa Glade Walk;  Track down stream to beach;  Tunnel Point track

Piha:  Tasman Lookout Track;  Lion Rock Track;  Rose Track to Whites Beach;  Laird Thompson Track over Te Waha Point from North Piha

Anawhata:  Anawhata Beach Track from end of road;  Track to beach from carpark;  Lake Wainamu Track north side only to waterfalls;  Te Henga Walkway.

Be sure you clean your shoes properly before and after.

The new Government intends to take action on Kauri dieback

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With new ministers now in place and getting their heads around some of the biggest issues faced in their portfolios the Central and Local Government response to Kauri dieback is being reviewed.

From a Beehive Press release:

The Government will move immediately to strengthen efforts to protect kauri trees from dieback disease, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor and Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage have announced.

“We have asked the Kauri Dieback Programme to develop a National Pest Management Plan (NPMP) in light of the continued spread of this disease, which has the potential to take kauri to the brink of extinction,” Mr O’Connor says.

“An NPMP shows how serious we are about protecting kauri. It is by far the strongest piece of regulation available and will ensure mandatory hygiene practices, consistent regulations that apply nationally, stronger governance and access to funding.”

National Pest Management Plans have previously been used to combat major threats to the primary sector such as the kiwifruit disease Psa, bovine tuberculosis and American foulbrood, a bee disease.

Although there are large areas still free of the disease, Mr O’Connor says it is sensible to have more options available to reduce the risk of kauri dieback spreading to uninfected trees.

Other measures which can come into force quickly through the Biosecurity Act are also under consideration, including an interim Controlled Area Notice (CAN) applying to kauri forests. This could be used to introduce mandatory minimum hygiene standards for people to follow when going into areas that have kauri and to close areas to visitors.

“To date, we have relied on people voluntarily complying with the rules when visiting kauri areas – that they must clean their footwear, stay on marked tracks, and keep their dogs on leashes. That approach has not worked, so it is time that we come up with tougher solutions,” Mr O’Connor says.

And other ministers are also taking a keen interest.  For instance Forestry Minister Shane Jones has used typically colourful language in giving his views of the matter.  From Laura Walters at Stuff:

Forestry Minister Shane Jones said he found the situation was “particularly galling” given he was from Tai Tokerau – the home of the kauri.

The kauri was iconic in Northland, so from a personal level, the lack of progress and issues with the programme’s management grated him, Jones said.

“It’s not just a Māori thing. My view is at the heart of what it means to be a Kiwi.”

The issue was inherited from the previous government, but that did not make a difference to the fate of the kauri. “Government’s come and go, but the kauri still lives and dies, irrespective of what government is in place.”

Jones said the review was “urgently needed”, and he was open to suggestions.

“The review will be a root and branch review, not a once over lightly brush…

“I’ve made it absolutely clear to the forestry officials that everyone can be better and we must be better.”

Jones said National’s legacy was “fetid water and diseased kauri”. “As long as Fonterra keeps the milk squirting from the udder these other things appear to have lost priority.”

He also warned that any bureaucrat who had been “fiddling around” would be gone faster than the kauri.

Jones said an overarching pest management programme was also being developed, and would be co-ordinated by MPI.

The programme would include a detailed response plan for kauri dieback, which would be a “galactic improvement to what’s been happening over the past several years”, he said.

“The tragedy of the matter is that the kauri has not only suffered because of a natural pest, but the pest that has been delivering the programme to date.”

Jones said the programme was an “overdue development”. He expected to receive further briefings on Monday, and after discussions with the prime minister, he expected to be able to announce further details of the programme and the review.

The news is welcome.  The latest Kauri Dieback survey report produced by Auckland Council shows that the current approach is not working.  Central and Local Government both need to do better.

Former Auckland Council biosecurity manager Jack Craw was quoted extensively in this Stuff article about the Central and Local Government programme.  The article includes this passage:

The Kauri Dieback Programme, which included a five-year plan for research, surveillance, treatment and containment, launched in 2009.

Craw said in those first five years, the co-management system between Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), Department of Conservation (DOC), affected local councils, and iwi, worked well.

However, after the programme came up for renewal in 2014, the programme became less effective, thanks to poor management on the part of MPI, he said.

Craw, who has now retired and does private biosecurity and kauri-related consulting, said he was “dismayed” by how the programme had been handled, and believed not all of the money allocated was being spent.

The programme had also recently lost another experienced scientist, and iwi were “ready to walk”, he said.

During the last financial year, $2.1 million was allocated to the programme. About $1.4m came from MPI, with the rest coming from DOC, local councils, and charitable foundations, according to the programme’s financial statements.

In 38 years working in biosecurity, this was the “most daunting pest” Craw had encountered.

He said there was a way to contain the disease and work to regenerate the population, to a point where it could be milled again, but only with the right funding, programme and ambition.

Craw estimates an effective programme would cost about $8m a year.

And Council is moving to put more of its resources into the problem although there is a disagreement at this stage about how much.  Simon Wilson at the Spinoff said this about proceedings at a recent Finance and Performance meeting where an increase in funding for Kauri Dieback was discussed.

The committee was considering the proposed 10-year budget for council, put forward by the mayor, Phil Goff. Currently, just $5 million over 10 years is allocated to fighting kauri dieback. Given that we’ve known about this terrible disease for 10 years now, it’s pathetic. The committee basically agreed with that, and resolved to include two options in the draft of the new 10-year budget that will go out for public consultation early next year. One is to allocate an extra $83 million over 10 years to the campaign; the other ups that to $100 million.

Council officers judge the current option carries an 80% risk of kauri dieback spreading. They say the extra $83 million will reduce that risk to 30-50%, and the $100 million option to 10-20%.

The option voted down by the Finance Committee, which was proposed by Crs Alf Filipaina and Penny Hulse, would have increased the kauri dieback spend to $113 million over 10 years and taken the risk figure close to zero.

Strong words were spoken. Mayor Goff was against the biggest option. He said, “We don’t live in a perfect world. We could have put more money into sporting and cultural activities, climate change, homelessness, things like that. But if we spend $80 million more in this area it’s $80 million less in other priorities, unless you just want to add that to the rates burden.” He called both the other two options “a massive, massive increase already”.

Hulse responded by saying she agreed with “90% of what the mayor said”. Then she said the problem was that the whole debate was being conducted from the premise of having “a conservative rates rise” (just 2.5% average, as promised by Goff in his election campaign). What they had not done, she said, is ask, “What does it take to run this city?” And constructed a budget accordingly.

She said to Goff, “We’re trying to give you some air cover, Mr Mayor. It’s not your fault if we go out with options outside the 2.5% envelope.” In other words, Goff has promised a ceiling of 2.5% for raising rates but he is only one vote on council. If they override him and go a little higher, it won’t be his fault.

While a halving of the risk of the spread of Kauri dieback is a good thing I agree with Penny Hulse that as a city we need to do better.  And if the cancellation of a roundabout or two will free sufficient funds to adequately fund Kauri dieback then I think we should start cancelling.

As noted by Wilson the attempt to further increase the Mayor’s proposal for dieback funding was lost on a vote by nine votes to twelve with left wing councillors (as well as Linda Cooper) being outvoted by centrist and right wing councillors and the mayor.

Interestingly there was then a vote to disestablish Auckland Council Investments Limited and to allow Council to again have direct control of the Airport shares and Ports of Auckland.  This was lost by eleven votes to ten with Linda Cooper voting against the proposal.  This is a real shame.  I have thought that Ports of Auckland has been out of control for a while with its anti union and environment damaging decisions and bringing it under direct control would have allowed for these failings to be addressed.

The earlier Council decision to close all high and medium risk tracks is I believe the right one although they do need to be closed, every risky one without exception.  There are too many infection areas that match accurately the location of tracks.  To allow these tracks to remain open will only mean the infection of remaining healthy Kauri on these tracks.  Cleaning stations will not prevent the spread of Kauri dieback on already diseased tracks.  And we need to quarantine the disease, not try and manage its spread.

The map on the left shows identified Kauri dieback locations, the map on the right shows high and medium risk tracks.  There are a number of areas where the spread is clearly occurring along the tracks.

The new Government’s interest in doing something presents the west with a unique opportunity to get the Kauri dieback programme back on track.  The latest survey results show that we are losing the battle and must do better to save this most iconic of species.

The draft ten year plan which contains the spend on Kauri dieback will be out for consultation soon.  Can I urge all Aucklanders to support the special environmental rate proposed by the Mayor in his ten year budget proposal and to go even further and support an increase so that as a city we do not have to face the prospect of losing that most iconic of species, the Kauri.

Chair’s report December 2017 – Auckland Council’s Kauri dieback decision

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Kauri Dieback

Tiakina te wao nui a Tiriwa hei oranga mou

(Treasure the great forest of Tiriwa and you in turn shall prosper)

Te Kawerau A Maki’s declaration of a rāhui over the Waitakere Ranges has attracted a great deal of attention. I am glad to say that the overall response to the rāhui that I have experienced is one of respect.

Many people have committed to observe the rāhui, myself included. I agree with the sentiment that until the forest is healed we should not walk anywhere that may risk the spread of kauri dieback. The problem is of course that we are amongst the ones most likely to clean our shoes and observe hygiene protocols. But the reduction in pressure on the tracks will be helpful.

I attended the ceremony placing the rāhui recently held at the Cascades. Aunt Agatha, the towering Kauri near the start of the track was the centre of attention. Sadly she is infected with kauri dieback and is dying.

I understand completely Te Kawerau A Maki’s motivation in laying the rāhui. To be frank Council has reacted too slowly to the crisis, and it is a crisis. No individual should be blamed, it is a system problem, but it is still a problem. An example is that the data and draft report concerning the latest round of testing for Kauri dieback was available in November last year. I was part of urgent meetings held last December. Yet publication of the final report took until August of this year and we are only seeing now the roll out of major changes to how the park is managed.

The Environment and Community committee of Council considered the issue recently. It wanted to formulate a response to correspondence received from Te Kawerau A Maki and to work out what changes should be made to current management of the park.

The local board took the opportunity to attend the meeting en masse and to present what we thought was the optimal approach to take.

Despite time pressures on the Committee I was generously allowed twice the normal speaking time. Following is a synopsis of what I said to the committee.

The disease is a scourge. It is a kauri killer and they are facing extinction because of it. Kauri are a keystone species. If they go the health of the forest will be adversely affected.

Regrettably the Waitakere Ranges is the most heavily affected area in the country.

Peter De Lange, who is a scientist at AUT and a former principal science adviser at the Department of Conservation has said this about the disease.

I can tell you now, because of the rate of decline that’s been mapped and because we have good data, that kauri is now being listed as a threatened species.

And I think that’s just terrible. This is an iconic tree; a sacred tree protected under the … Treaty of Waitangi. Various iwi regard it as their totem tree, and we are potentially going to lose it.”

The recent Kauri Dieback report prepared by Council shows a clear correlation between tracks, watercourses and baitlines and the spread of the disease. The correlation is startling and unmistakeable.

Five different options were presented to the committee. They included doing nothing, status quo, slight improvement, close high and medium risk tracks, and close the ranges.

As far as the Board was concerned:
* Doing nothing is not an option
* Status quo is not an option. Both of these options clearly will fail.
* The recommended option (slight improvement) was deficient because there is a need to quarantine areas where dieback is prevalent and close tracks where there are healthy Kauri.
* Option 4 was closest to what is needed to protect Kauri but still allow some use.
* We did not think that full immediate closure of the Ranges was workable.

Our submission noted that under the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act there is an obligation to “protect, restore, and enhance the area” and when making decisions that threaten serious or irreversible harm Council must endeavour to protect the forest.

I included two maps in the submission. The first shows the presence of Kauri disease which has been spreading like a cancer along the tracks. Red dots are infections in 2011. Black dots are infections in 2016. It is clear that most of the infection is spreading along the tracks.

The next map shows tracks of no, low, medium and high risk. Option four requires the medium (yellow) and high risk (red) tracks to be closed.

The board spent a great deal of time considering Te Kawerau A Maki’s placing of a rāhui over the Ranges. We understood completely their motivation for imposing the rāhui. There have been too many delays, including delays in releasing the Kauri dieback report.

I believe that the rāhui presents an opportunity to urgently address the crisis affecting Kauri and is a perfect tool to educate Auckland of the severity of the situation. The board’s view is that option 4 properly implemented is not inconsistent with the principles of the rāhui in that Te Kawerau A Maki is prepared to allow “rolling openings” of low risk areas. Option 4 speeds this process up. BUT, and I should emphasis this, I would prefer that Te Kawerau A Maki agreed with the categorisation of the tracks. It would help if there was a meeting of Council and Te Kawerau A Maki to look at the track categorisation and see if consensus can be reached.

The local board had a number of other suggestions for the Council including the following:
* Urgent work on tracks to improve drainage and increase number of boardwalks as well as rerouting away from Kauri.
* Install more hygiene stations along tracks, not just at track entrances.
* Install DOC designed high quality stations at key sites.
* Check station coverage. For example there are no cleaning stations at Beveridge Track even though it is considered to be a high risk track.
* Provide maps and brochures (including online)with up-to-date information about kauri PTA and closed tracks.
* Promote non-kauri tracks on and off regional parks.
* Stop all sporting events through the Waitakeres.
* Work with concessionaires to re-site tourism activities.
* Work with ATEED to halt all promotion of the Waitakeres.
* At a minimum double kauri ambassadors in the Waitakeres from 6 to 12 and extend their period of employment.
* Work with local communities to identify low risk areas for exercise and recreation.
* Filming only to occur in non-kauri locations.
* Develop a “good visitor” code of conduct for Waitakere.
* Prohibit dogs anywhere in Waitakere Ranges off-leash.

Our presentation ended with the photo below of Aunt Agatha which is the most prominent Kauri in the Ranges but has succumbed to Kauri Dieback. I said that we do not want to be at another meeting in another 5 years discussing another report that shows a further spread of this disease through the Waitakere Ranges. We need urgent effective action now.

Since the meeting I have written to Councillor Hulse reemphasising our proposals and also suggesting there should be added resources for pig hunting in line with a suggestion Jack Craw has made. I also suggested that ongoing engagement with Te Kawerau A Maki about the rāhui should occur and there should be a high level governance group to oversee action and maintain momentum. Councillor Hulse has responded positively to these suggestions.

The announcement has not gone completely smoothly. An initial 13 tracks were identified in the report for closure and since then a further 17 tracks have been identified for closure before christmas. But there is some local concern that not all medium and high risk tracks will be closed. Can I just say that my clear understanding of the resolutions is they will and will remain closed until they can be made safe.

Mayor’s Ten year budget proposal

The Mayor has released his proposal for Auckland Council’s ten year long term plan.

He is endeavouring to keep the “core” rate rise next year to 2.5% in line with his promise made during the election campaign last year but has acknowledged that if we are going to do something significant about environmental damage that is happening then more resources will be required.

He has proposed that there be a “targeted protection” rate. There are two options presented. The first will raise an additional $123 million and require an environmental levy of around $21 a year, or 40 cents per week, for the average residential ratepayer. Staff analysis is that this will result in a “slowed decline” of Auckland’s natural environment and a 30-50% risk of kauri dieback spreading. Council staff believe that currently planned levels of spend on environmental matters will result in ongoing decline in environmental quality and extinction of some species, with the risk of Kauri dieback spreading being assessed at over 80%.

The other option, titled “enhanced protection and restoration” would raise an additional $356 million of rates funded budget and require an environmental levy of around $60 a year, or $1.15 per week, for the average residential ratepayer. This will allow “protected and enhanced priority areas and species” and the risk of kauri dieback spreading is estimated to be 10-20%. Approximately $84 million over ten years will be spent on the disease including track upgrades.

A second targeted rate is for water quality purposes.

The Mayor is proposing a regional Water Quality targeted rate to fund Healthy Waters’ part of the Water Quality Improvement Programme. The intent is to achieve an 80% reduction in waste water overflows within ten years. Under current plans this is well over 20 years away and the Mayor wants to spend the money now to accelerated this. The proposed rate is less than $1.30 per week or $66 per year for the average residential ratepayer.

A quote from the Mayor’s report deserves repeating:

“I believe Aucklanders want their city to be world class. In the twenty first century, world class cities don’t allow waste water to flow into their streams and beaches. This problem is not new. It goes back more than a century. It is time to take the problem out of the too-hard-basket, and to stop passing it unresolved to future generations. I am asking Aucklanders whether they are ready to make the commitment of a small weekly sum to tackle, and resolve this problem, so we can live up to our reputation as a clean and green city.”

The Waitakere Ranges Local Board area has the dubious characteristic of having more polluted areas than any other board. Five of our Manukau Harbour beaches and three of our west coast lagoons regularly have long term water quality alerts. This is half of the total problem areas in the region. There are various reasons for this but for most of the Manukau Beaches infrastructure is implicated. The Mayor’s suggestion work be performed on contaminant reduction is helpful. It is clear that the primary cause of pollution in the Manukau Harbour is failing sewerage infrastructure and the sooner this is fixed the better.

The draft ten year budget is being prepared for consultation. The local board will have a role in the consultation process. These particular proposals are very important to the west and I will be urging everyone to support them.

Titirangi library opening

The local board were present when the Titirangi Library reading deck was recently opened. We had the pleasure of a performance from the Titirangi Primary Kapa Haka group. As kaumatua Fred Holloway noted they may have been the most blue eyed and blonde kapa haka group he has seen but they performed extremely well and their haka was extraordinary.

It made me reflect on the quality of our local libraries which also includes the Glen Eden library. Both institutions perform outstandingly well and are a tribute to our staff. And libraries are a cornerstone of our civilisation. The accumulation and dissemination of knowledge only took off when Libraries first appeared.

West Auckland Maori engagement

The Henderson Massey and Waitakere Ranges local boards had a very helpful session at Hoani Waititi marae concerning Maori engagement. The sessions were run by Joe Waru and Kim Penetito.

They were well designed and provided very helpful insights into how to properly engage with tangata whenua. The first thing is to front up and to talk. And listen. The second thing is to be respectful. These two basic ideas will ensue that any discussions with Iwi will be fruitful.

Glen Eden Santa parade

This has become a firm fixture of Glen Eden’s social calendar. A number of groups are involved, including the Glen Eden Protection Society, the Glen Eden Business Improvement District, and Glen Eden Community Patrol helped out.

Gayle Marshall, who has been involved ever since the parade started, once again starred as Mrs Claus or whatever the current version of that description is! Congratulations to all involved.

Titirangi Glow Festival

And immediately following the Glen Eden Christmas Parade was the Titirangi Glow festival.

This is a more recent event but it also has a dedicated group of people who want to make Titirangi an enjoyable place at Christmas time. The aim is to light up Titirangi and to have an evening event of celebration. They rely on the Titirangi Fire Brigade a great deal and they also receive significant support from the local business community.

The Local Board has helped with funding in the past couple of years. I am suggesting that we meet in the new year with the group who organise the event to make sure that the event can continue in the future.

Combined ratepayers meeting

We had our last meeting of this group for year recently. The combined ratepayers meeting involves representatives from throughout the Waitakere Ranges and it is probably the most important chance that we have to discuss matters with local communities. It is ably chaired by former Waitakere Community Board chair Kubi Witten-Hannah and assisted by the legendary secretary Mels Barton.

We were pleased to have Deborah Russell, MP for New Lynn and Chris Penk, MP for Helensville present at the meeting. A number of issues of interest were discussed including fireworks in the ranges, kauri dieback and a number of Council associated matters. Hopefully this can continue so that the lines of communication between local communities, the local board and central Government can continue to be strong.

Citizenship ceremonies

And finally I attended the last citizenship ceremony of the year this week. They are always very similar although often subtly different. Every ceremony I have been involved in has included Papa Fred Holloway. He is a kaumatua who gives the ceremony a very gentle but inclusive feel. His presence highlights the importance of Maori culture.

During the ceremonies I am given the opportunity to welcome everyone and to urge that although they are now citizens of a new land their culture is important and should be retained. Then there is the formality of everyone pledging oaths of allegiance, the handing out of citizenship certificates and high fives with the young new citizens. Then after that is the boisterous singing of the national anthem in te reo and english and then an acknowledgment and celebration of all the different nationalities present.

The ceremonies are always touching. It is clear that new citizens publicly pledging allegiance to New Zealand is an emotional matter for them and a very important ceremony. Seeing all these new New Zealanders with smiles on their faces is one of the best parts of my job.

Meri Kirihimete me ngā mihi o te tau hou ki a koutou katoa!
(Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!)

The Waitakere Ranges rāhui

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Today with the rest of the Waitakere Ranges Local Board I attended the meeting of the Environment and Committee committee of Auckland Council to talk about proposals to deal with Kauri dieback.

Following our presentation the Council voted by majority to support option four.  There were a number of other resolutions passed some of which furthered other issues we had raised.  Following is a synopsis of my address to the committee.

The disease is a scourge.  It is a kauri killer and they are facing extinction because of it.  Kauri are a keystone species. If they go the health of the forest will be adversely affected.

Regrettably the Waitakere Ranges is the most heavily affected area in the country.  And following the recent Auckland Council report on the disease it is clear that infection is concentrated along tracks, watercourses and bait lines.

Peter De Lange, who is a scientist at AUT and a former principal science adviser at the Department of Conservation has said this about the disease.

I can tell you now, because of the rate of decline that’s been mapped and because we have good data, that kauri is now being listed as a threatened species.

And I think that’s just terrible. This is an iconic tree; a sacred tree protected under the … Treaty of Waitangi. Various iwi regard it as their totem tree, and we are potentially going to lose it.”

Contained within the Kauri Dieback report is this graph which shows a clear correlation between walking tracks, watercourses and baitlines and the spread of the disease.

Five different options were presented to the committee. They included doing nothing, status quo, slight improvement, close high and medium risk tracks, and close the ranges.

As far as the Board was concerned:

  • Doing nothing is not an option
  • Status quo is not an option.
  • The recommended option (slight improvement) is deficient because there is a need to quarantine areas where dieback is prevalent and close tracks where there are healthy Kauri.
  • Option 4 closest to what is needed to protect Kauri but still allow some use.
  • We did not think that full immediate closure was workable.

Our submission noted that under the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act there is an obligation to “protect, restore, and enhance the area” and when making decisions that threaten serious or irreversible harm Council must endeavour to protect the forest.

I included two maps in the submission.  The first showed the spread of Kauri disease which has been spreading like a cancer along the tracks.  Red dots are infections in 2011.  Black dots are infections in 2016.

The next map shows tracks of no, low, medium and high risk.  Option four requires the medium and high risk tracks to be closed.

We thought long and hard about Te Kawerau A Maki’s placing of a rāhui over the Ranges.  We understood completely their desire to and motivation for imposing the rāhui.  There have been delays, including the release of the Kauri dieback report.  Results from testing were known last November.  An urgent meeting was held in December.  But it took until August for the report to be published.

We consider that the rāhui presents an opportunity to urgently address the crisis affecting Kauri and is a perfect tool to educate Auckland of the severity of the situation.  And we thought that option 4 is not inconsistent with the principles of the rāhui in that Te Kawerau A Maki is prepared to allow “rolling openings” of low risk areas.  Option 4 speeds this process up.

The local board had a number of other suggestions for the Council including the following:

  • Urgent work on tracks to improve drainage and increase number of boardwalks as well as rerouting away from Kauri.
  • Install more hygiene stations along tracks, not just at track entrances.
  • Install DOC high quality stations at key sites.
  • Check station coverage. Eg No cleaning stations at Beveridge Track even though it is considered to be a high risk track
  • Provide maps and brochures (including online)with up-to-date information about kauri PTA and closed tracks
  • Promote non-kauri tracks on and off regional parks
  • Stop all sporting events through Waitakeres
  • Work with concessionaires to re-site tourism activities.
  • Work with ATEED to halt all promotion of the Waitakeres
  • Double at least kauri ambassadors in the Waitakeres from 6 to 12 and extend their period of employment
  • Work with local communities to identify low risk areas for exercise and recreation
  • Filming only in non-kauri locations
  • Develop a “good visitor” code of conduct for Waitakere
  • Prohibit dogs anywhere in Waitakere Ranges off-leash

Our presentation ended with the photo below of Aunt Agatha which is the most prominent Kauri in the Ranges but has succumbed to Kauri Dieback.   We do not want to be at another meeting in another 5 years discussing another report that shows a further spread of this disease through the Waitakere Ranges.  We need urgent effective action now.

Chair’s report – November 2017, Kauri dieback and the suggested Rahui in the Waitakere Ranges

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Kauri dieback

Te Kawerau A Maki has proposed that a Rahui be placed on the Waitakere Ranges in an effort to deal with Kauri dieback.

It is easy to understand the reasons why. The first Kauri dieback monitoring report produced 6 years ago suggested that kauri dieback presented a significant threat to the Waitakere Ranges. The second report, a draft of which was available over a year ago, suggests that things are much worse with infection rates doubling on some measurements in only five years.

Although some work proposed after the second report was prepared involving improved hygiene stations and the employment of Kauri dieback ambassadors has been completed the really big decisions have yet to been made. Urgent upgrades to tracks and the construction of boardwalks need to be started now.

TKAM spokesperson Edward Ashby is right when he says that the map of the presence of Kauri disease when compared to the existing tracks shows that the main spreader of the disease is humans.

And it is clear to me that the current approach is not working. Not only should Council keep existing tracks through pristine areas closed but consideration also needs to be given to closing already diseased tracks to quarantine the disease and to stop its spread.

One idea the local board has discussed is the creation of a map showing walks in the Ranges that do not go through Kauri areas. This would give people an option to go walking without the fear they are spreading the disease around.

And we have to do whatever we can. If we fail to get on top of this crisis then in years to come the Waitakere Ranges forest will be a pale, weakened shadow of its current form.

Waikumete Cemetery Open day

The Local Board hosted the second open day at Waikumete Cemetery recently. Sandra Coney deserves special praise for the event and for all of the work that she put into it.

The cemetery was established in 1886. It is one of the larges open urban spaces in Auckland and occupies 108 hectares. It is the final resting place to more than 70,000 people.

It is nearly full. Unless Council can unlock some land that is covered by a significant ecological area overlay we will run out of room in the next few years.

The day before the open day it was my privilege to speak at the launch of Sandra’s latest book Gone West.

The book is outstanding and is a fascinating read.

It starts with the the ten great war memorials of Waitakere, including the memorial in Waikumete Cemetery, and then digs into the background of the people named in the memorials, their families and the effects the war had on everyone.

The book really highlights the importance of places of remembrance and memorials so that the lives of those who gave theirs in protection of our freedom can be celebrated and those people remembered.

The Waikumete memorial was constructed by members of the Auckland RSA for kiwis who died during the first world war, “our fallen comrades” in the words on the obelisk.

And within this cemetery there are many graves and memorials of those who were killed during the war.

The most distressing may be that constructed by the Browne family. Four of the five sons from that family were killed in the first world war.

Cemeteries are vital, not just for those seeking a last resting place, but for the survivors, so that we can process the loss of a loved one and we have a physical place to go to to celebrate their lives. It is clear to me that Waikumete fulfills that important role very well.

Water quality

The Mayor has has announced a long term programme to improve Auckland’s water quality.

As part of the programme the Safeswim website will have up to date water quality monitoring information available.

The information is especially important for out west. Regrettably five of our Manukau Harbour beaches and three of our west coast lagoons regularly have long term water quality alerts. This is half of the total problem areas in the region. The reasons vary although for most of the Manukau Beaches infrastructure is implicated. As a matter of urgency I intend to continue to raise this with Auckland Council to seek that this is remedied. These beaches and lagoons should be swimmable.

The local board has funded the preparation of a report into local water quality. The report is getting close to the stage where it can be released for public discussion. The intent of the report is to start a conversation with locals and to seek agreements on what we want to achieve and what the priorities should be.

Meeting with District Commander Tusha Penney

Henderson Massey chair Shane Henderson, Whau chair Tracey Mulholland and I recently met with Tusha Penney who is the District Commander of the Waitemata Policing District and Scotty Webb who is the Waitakere area commander.

Tusha is an energetic and passionate Police Officer who is clearly wanting to improve police performance out west. She wants to focus police activity on Waitakere in recognition that because of poverty this area presents the most challenges.

She was supportive of the Waitakere Ranges Safety hub, an office funded by the local board that is used by the local community constable.

She was also very keen to improve community engagement. Out west there has always been a good relationship between community and Government departments driven by the realisation that the community has huge understanding and resources that can help Government departments perform their core roles.

The specific matters that we discussed at this meeting were the problems being caused by parties held at Council hired halls and the support we could provide for a new police initiative seeking to address the effects of domestic violence.

Further regular meetings with Tusha and Scotty are being scheduled.

Waitakere Pest Free meeting

The local board hosted a meeting of a variety of groups interested in creating a Waitakere Pest Free area. A preliminary application to the Government Pest Free 2050 fund has been made on behalf of all of the groups.

The groups represented included Forest and Bird, Arc Bufferzone, Ark in the Park, Gecko Trust, Oratia Native Wildlife Project, Weed Free Waiatarua, and Ecomatters Environment Trust amongst others.

The design of the application will be an interesting process. But so far so good. Special thanks to Robert Woolf and Annalily van den Broeke who have both put a lot of work into the proposal.

Meeting with Japanese delegation from Akita

The local board had the pleasure of meeting elected representatives from the municipal association of Akita, Japan. Akita is a small (by Japanese standards) prefecture in Northern Hokkaido. They were visiting New Zealand on a fact finding tour. It was our pleasure to welcome them to Arataki Visitor’s centre and to talk to them about the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area and environmental protection out west.

Bioblitz

I was invited to speak at the Whatipu bioblitz launch. The Bioblitz was the brainchild of Friends of Whatipu which includes Bruce and Trixie Harvey and Peter Maddison. Bruce and Trixie, who have a long standing link to Whatipu, have worked particularly hard on the proposal. It was hosted at Whatipu Lodge by the Mayor of Whatipu, Wayne McKenzie.

The local board contributed a relatively modest amount of funding to the Bioblitz. For this investment Auckland receives the voluntary contributions of a number of enthusiastic young people collecting bio samples in the local area and the further contributions of a number of scientists analysing the samples. The intent is to measure the quality of the local biodiversity and to see what is changing when the results are compared to those of previous bioblitzes. By comparing the results we can understand what if anything is happening to the local environment.

When the amount contributed is compared to the numbers of hours of voluntary work performed I am confident that the cost would be measured in cents per hour.

Congratulations to Bruce and Trixie. I look forward to reading the findings.

Te Kura Kaupapa kapa haka

Councillor Linda Cooper and I and members of Sports Waitakere including Chief Executive Lynette Adams had the pleasure of attending the Kura at Hoani Waititi Marae and being on the receiving end of a spine chilling powerful performance by the Kapa Haka group. It was outstanding.

I have had the pleasure of visiting the Kura a few times recently and I am really impressed with what is happening. The education is first class and the students are getting a deep and important immersion in their and our culture.

Rimutaka walkway opening

We finally managed to officially open the Rimutaka Place walkway and on a cold and rainy day we persuaded an enthusiastic young local resident to cut the ribbon.

Many thanks to Neil Henderson for the tremendous work he has put into the walkway.

Woodlands Park Primary have requested that we see if we can extend the walkway to the school. It appears that there are major private land issues but I agree that if at all possible we should have a network of walkways so that kids can walk to their local school and not have to be driven.

Open Studios launch

Finally the annual Open Studios event has again been held. This is a yearly event where local artists open up their studios and welcome visitors from afar to look at and hopefully purchase some of their art. It is organised by a dedicated team including Renee Tanner and lets people interact with over 70 westie artists, potters, painters and jewellers. Again for a relatively modest contribution from the Board and a lot of passion and dedication from members of the community really interesting events can be organised and held and the local arts community can be strengthened.

Auckland’s impending environmental crisis

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I am not breaking any secrets by saying that Auckland’s environment is going backwards at an alarming rate, and that we are facing a crisis.

The subject was discussed at a recent Waitakere Ranges Local Board meeting.

From the Wester Leader report on the meeting:

Auckland faces a loss of biodiversity “at a cataclysmic level” unless it increases spending by up to $26 million.

This is the warning of Penny Hulse, chairwoman of the city’s environment committee.

A “clear-eyed” discussion was needed about how the environment would suffer if current funding in the council’s 10-year budget continued – and whether Aucklanders were happy for that to happen, she said.

Hulse said she would prefer the council found the money without raising rates.

“We need to be honest about what kind of species will go extinct because of the Long-Term Plan.”

Hulse brought up the subject at the Waitākere Ranges Local Board meeting on October 26.

She said she wanted the council to present the public in the new year with three priced options: “go backwards fast, kind of hold our own and go backwards slowly, or protect and enhance our environment”.

The money needed to protect and enhance was equivalent to between a 1 and 1.7 per cent increase in the general rates, she said.

A calculation on the council’s 2017/2018 budget showed this would be between $15m and $26m a year.

Staff have performed this outstanding simplification of a complex area to make it eminently comprehensible what will happen under different funding scenarios.

Under business as usual, forecast to cost about $8 million a year for the next three years and $97 million over the next decade, the forecast is for there to be “environmental decline and extinctions”.  In particular the risk of the spread of kauri dieback is more than 80%.

Under a more expensive scenario, forecast to cost about $28 million a year for the next three years and $220 million over the next decade, the forecast is for there to be “slowed decline”.  Under this scenario the risk of the spread of kauri dieback is estimated to be between 30 and 50%.

Under the most expensive scenario, forecast to cost about $50 million a year for the next three years and $453 million over the next decade, the forecast is this will “protect and enhance priority areas and species”.  Under this scenario the risk of the spread of kauri dieback is thought to be between 10 and 20%.

The most expensive option does not mean an overall improvement, only that the decline will be arrested and priority areas and species enhanced.

As pointed out in the article the cost would represent between a 1 and a 1.7% general rates increase.

My personal view is that if this is the cost of preserving our environment then it should be paid.  It is as important as the provision of water or passenger transport or road and rail.  Of course Auckland Council should be funding it.

And if it going to cost a 1.7% rates increase to have a greater chance of saving Kauri and stop extinctions of native flora and fauna then that is the cost we have to pay.

The Mayor’s proposal for Auckland’s long term plan is due to be released at the end of this month.  I hope that it includes proper provision of resources to stop the decline of our environment.

Chair’s report October 2017 – three schools

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Now that the general election madness is behind us I have been able to concentrate more fully on local matters.

School visits

This past month I have had significant interaction with three schools.

The first school that I visited was Woodlands Park Primary where Saffron Toms and I were the guests with the very happy job of presenting them with a large certificate for their outstanding environmental sustainability work to the Principal Liz Manley and to her children.

The school has a proud history of enviroschool activity led by Micah Haughton who is one of the teachers. They are very proud of their certification and do things such as actively persuade the kids’ lunches to be as wrap free as possible, grow trees and plants, and have their own composting area and worm farm.

The event involved about 20 young citizens standing up and giving us a brief précis of what they were doing and how it was helping our environment and our community.

They covered all sorts of areas, the relevance of Te Reo and Maori culture, the importance of worms, the need to improve water quality, how the school had actively minimized the use of plastics in the children’s lunches. The presentations were all heart felt and totally on point and relevant.

At the end of their presentation I thought we should give all the young people involved the right to vote. They were all incredibly mature in their thinking and passionate in their desire to improve their school. And they have more at stake than the rest of us in ensuring that we develop into a sustainable city.

The second was the Kura at Hoani Waititi Marae. I met with the Principal Haare Rua and a few others to talk with them about what assistance we can give to the school. They have the desire to improve the water quality of the stream that runs through the marae.

The approach by Haare and others at the school is impressive. They are trying to create practical real world teaching examples for the children while at the same time impressing on them the importance of sustainability and environmental protection.

Haare is a really inspiring Principal. He realises the importance of community and the educational benefits of teaching outside of the curriculum. If we want to prepare our kids for the future we need to make their education is broad and diverse. Teaching them narrow curriculum so they can pass a test based on limited understanding of the world we live in is retrograde for them.

Haare has this really great idea that the Kura should adopt the local stream, monitor it, and improve its health so that the quality of water improves and the life sustained by the stream is enhanced. The exercise would fulfil a number of goals, improve the local area, teach the students about water quality and natural ecosystems

The Kura could grow plants, plant them on the banks of the stream, measure water quality and observe the life that a stream should produce.

The Kura is also growing crops and teaching pupils about food. There is this realization that education should be for the benefit of the whanau at large rather than just the young people involved.

They are also investigating the possibility of having a chicken run. I was very happy to offer them some of Titirangi’s well fed but wild fowl as there is an urgent need to reduce numbers.

The third school that I visited was Konini Primary in Titirangi. Half of the school is just inside the edge of the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area. It has a large bush area and a stream. The school grounds are very large but unfortunately the school is not funded for the upkeep of the bush area.

Despite this Principal Andrew Ducat is doing what he can with limited resources. The School also has enviroschool status and the teaching of sustainability is clearly an important part of its curriculum. And the protection and enhancement of the bush area is a priority for the school.

For each school the Board is able to offer small grants to help with the restoration work. We are also able through Ecomatters Trust to ensure they receive the best advice on how to tackle restoration of the bush.

If contractors were used to perform similar amounts of work the cost would be significantly greater than the size of the grants. But through these grants and the power of community and the passion of the staff and the pupils really good things can be achieved.

I am concerned that the Enviroschools budget is one of the budgets that has been cut through Council cost saving and the local board is being asked to fill in the gap. But the work is far too important not to be funded.

Synthetic Cannabis meeting

The Glen Eden Residents Association and the Glen Eden Community Patrol held a public meeting recently to discuss local issues with Synthetic Cannabis.

The drug is a scourge. I have represented young people in Court for many years and I know how problematic and destructive the drug can be for them.

The issue was highlighted recently when I discovered BID Manager Jennifer Conlon and local coordinator of the Glen Eden Community Patrol Penny Hinchelwood following a young person who had just smoked some synthetic weed in the Glen Eden township. The young man was really the worse for wear and was really struggling. The description “zombie drug” is really apt.

The meeting was very well organised and the presentations were superb. Heather Tanguay, Michelle Clayton, Penny Hinchelwood and the other members of the associations should be praised for their work.

The issue is a difficult one. It can invoke demands for full throttled tough on crime solutions but my experience is that these do not work. Throughout the world there is trend to treat the issue of drug use and drug dependancy as a health one. Users who develop problems should receive help and education rather than prosecution.

Sargent Michael Wickman from New Lynn Police gave a really good presentation about what action the Police are taking. The suppliers and manufacturers of synthetic cannabis are being targeted with some recent success. Over 120 arrests for supplying and manufacturing have recently occurred.< He also emphasized the importance of treatment. Those consuming the drug are being offered help by the police not prosecution. I believe that the police have the approached about right. Scott Mesarich, who runs the Wicked Habits shop in Glen Eden, was an unlikely star of the meeting. The shop previously, and legally, sold permitted synthetic cannabis and from what I saw Scott had a very successful business. Following the change in the law he has adjusted his business model. His current business model relies significantly on the sale of vaping products which are better for us than cigarettes.

He has also regulated the sale of herbs that are currently being used in the production of synthetic cannabis. All strength to him. We need more businessmen like Scott who are looking for a sustainable business model but one that does not cause harm.

Others spoke about what we should do to help those struggling from the effect of the drug. Treatment and rehabilitation are not simple. And too many young people are experimenting with the drug. Education for both young people and for their parents is absolutely essential.

Congratulations to the Glen Eden Residents Association and the Glen Eden Community Patrol for organising the meeting and for taking an active approach to dealing with this very important issue. Communities work better when local groups and the arms of the state, whether they be Police, Health or Local Government, work together.

Public Transport in the Waitakere Ranges

Auckland Transport has released the summary report following its consultation with local communities about possible public transport improvements in the Waitakere Ranges area.

The response from the community was outstanding. 839 replies were received.

The initial conclusions were that there were two potential routes identified, the first from Piha to Glen Eden, via Waiatarua and Oratia and the second from Huia/Parau to New Lynn via Woodlands Park and Titirangi. Both routes would terminate at the respective railway station.

Although other possible routes were identified low demand precluded a set route being established at this stage. A Kowhai Connection type service could be trialled.

The big caveat in the report is that funding would have to be identified and there is currently no funding for the further services. AT wants to talk to the Board about funding but I am not sure why. We do not have separate funding that could be applied to such a service and besides local residents pay rates including their transport levies and have a legitimate expectation to a public transport service. And right now there is no public transport to large parts of our local board area.

Pest Control

There has been a welcome surge in the number of community groups dedicated to pest control in the Ranges. Recently groups have been formed in Huia, Oratia and Henderson Valley. Council staff have been happy to coordinate with these groups and practical help, in the formulation of a system that will allow these groups to benefit from Council’s bulk purchasing power is under way.

There has always been an emphasis on pest eradication with the Ark in the Park being the most prominent example.

Robert Woolf, chair of Forest and Bird Waitakere organised a recent meeting of the various groups to seek a joint approach to the Government to see if funding from the 2050 Pest Free fund could be acquired.

An expression of interest has been lodged. Hopefully this will be successful.

Titirangi Development

I recently met with a representative of the company that has purchased the Rotondo site in Titirangi.

I know the site well. It is up the road from where I live and when I was the chair of the Titirangi Ratepayers and Residents we mounted a legal challenge to previous plans to the develop the site on the basis that the building was out of scale for the site.

The discussion I had with the new owners was positive. They are investigating a building with a reduced size, two stories rather than three. They are very conscious of the fragile nature of the area. Their intent is to build and retain the building and the business ethos is to take a long term cooperative approach to building ownership and management.

How is Super City going?

Finally I was asked recently by the Herald about my thoughts on local democracy and Super City. Is it working?

Following is what I sent in:

“I am afraid that out west local democracy has slipped a little. Before there was a strong and abiding sense of partnership between ecocity Waitakere City and the local community but now that relationship is not as strong.

The Westie network still exists but councillors have too many constituents to deal with properly and local boards do not have enough power to make really meaningful change.

The promised financial efficiencies have not materialised. Council has developed into a top-down organisation concentrated in the centre. And decision-making is still too complex, information too difficult to find and ratepayers’ ability to influence decisions is too weak.”

Clearly work is required. Local representatives are working on this. But I do remember fondly the days of Eco City and wonder if we could not be doing more in line with the Eco City ethos.