Chair’s report June 2018 – Water quality, Ranges protection and Christine Rose

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The Big Blue Report and Water quality

The Waitakere Ranges Local Board has commissioned a report into water quality in the Manukau Harbour and the West Coast. The report, titled Big Blue Waitakere, has now been released for public comment.

To be frank our local water quality is appalling. This local board area has half of the region’s trouble spots. Wood Bay and Laingholm Beach in particular are shut too often. And the Piha and Te Henga lagoons have unsafe contamination levels occurring far too frequently.

Aucklanders know that our water quality is not up to scratch and that it will cost to fix the problem. Colmar Brunton conducted a recent poll that showed that 61% of Aucklanders supported and 33% opposed the proposed Water quality targeted rate recently passed by Council. And in the Waitakere Ranges Local Board area the support figure was 77% with 18% opposed. It is almost unheard of for a proposed increase in rates to be so popular. But locals clearly want our waterways to be swimmable without the need to check on a website to make sure that this is so and are willing to pay for this.

Swimmability is only one aspect of what is a complex problem.  Fish stock and in particular protection of Maui’s dolphin along with contamination by plastics are other major issues that need to be addressed although improving water quality will help with these other issues.

The intent is that the report should start a discussion with local communities about the state of our beaches and lagoons and what should we do to improve them. We want to prompt a wide-ranging local conversation about our marine and coastal environment, how we interact with it and how we work together to protect and restore it.

The report itself is complex and identifies a number of threats and areas for concern. From the Executive Summary:

“Some of the greatest threats to the diversity and resilience of marine and coastal habitats are global issues such as greenhouse gas emissions and associated climate change, ocean acidification and sea level rise. Several management actions identified relate to how the local board can advocate for local scale contributions to carbon emissions that contribute to these global issues.

The key pressures affecting the marine and coastal habitats within the WRLB area include; urban development and discharge of contaminants; fishing pressure and methods; habitat destruction; wastewater pollution; rubbish, plastics and marine debris; invasive species; and potential risks associated with petroleum and sand exploration and mining.

While improvements have been made to local and regional management approaches, 90% of our native seabirds and more than a quarter of our native marine mammals are threatened with or are at risk of extinction. The rapid expansion of urbanised Auckland has resulted in coastal marine habitats and ecosystems becoming degraded. Chemical contaminants, high levels of nutrients and discharged sediments from waterways will continue to result in negative impacts. Even with the implementation of best practice management, it is unknown how irreversible these ecosystem-level changes may be.

The report sets out eight management objectives designed to focus the debate in what can and should happen in discrete areas.  These include a focus on water quality, habitat diversity and natural character, natural coastal processes, sustainable fisheries, threatened species which includes the critically endangered Māui’s dolphin, the offshore environment, recreational value and safety and the accumulation of knowledge and research by local communities.”

The board held a public meeting recently where the report was formally launched.  The meeting was well attended with more than 50 people in attendance.

If you wish to provide us with your comments on the report then feel free to contact me or any local board member.

Election of Ken Turner

Congratulations to the election of Ken Turner to the board to replace the late Denise Yates.

Ken has been very energetic and involved and is clearly keen to learn what is and can be a very complex job.

One of the earlier events that he attended was a Powhiri at Hoani Waititi Marae.  The local board has an important relationship with the Marae which is one of the most impressive as well as important community institutions in Waitakere.  The essence of the local board’s relationship with the Marae is that of partnership.

The powhiri itself was especially poignant because five months earlier Denise Yates’ Tangi was held at the Marae.

Ken has been keen to involve himself in all board events and discussions.  He is flexible in his approach while he is also keen to question the efficiency of Council operations.

Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area monitoring report

I mentioned the report in my last report.

The report was formally launched at an event in Waiatarua.  The event was both to present the report to the public but also to celebrate \the 10th year of the passing of the Act.

First a mea culpa on the part of the board.  Our invitation system was not pristine and something happened to the invites former Mayor Bob Harvey and former Councillor Janet Clews.  This was not intended.  Bob in particular was so instrumental in the passing of the Act.  We had every intention that he be there as part of a celebration of what was an important occasion and Bob was a big part of that.

The monitoring report is a statutory requirement under the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act 2008.

Under section 34 Council is required to monitor the state of the environment in the heritage area, the progress made towards achieving the objectives, and the funding impact arising from activities to be taken to give effect to the Act.

This is an important discipline.

It is a chance for us all to take a breather and to work out if there is something we need to do for our beloved Waitakere Ranges to make sure her health remains viable.

And I feel a certain amount of paternal affinity for the legislation.

I can recall as a newly elected Waitakere City councillor in 2002 attending a meeting called by Jonathan Hunt.  Chris Carter and David Cunliffe were there as was Bob Harvey, Penny Hulse, Denise Yates, John Edgar and others.

Jonathan suggested that the Council should come up with a local bill for meaningful protection of the Waitakere Ranges.

He had previously tried to do the same in 1975 but a change of Government had thwarted the attempt.

And we all went away with that as a goal.

The Waitakere Ranges Protection Project was formed from that meeting and after a long, long, long process and extensive consultation with the communities the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Bill became law on April 8, 2008.

Looking back nearly 10 years ago something unusual has happened.

Erstwhile opponents of the Act have now come to accept that it was not going to take away all rights but it was actually well balanced.

Communities like Oratia who were originally generally opposed to the Act now respect its intention and told Watercare all about the Act after plans for a large industrial scale water treatment plant was announced.

And people are very proud to live in a heritage area.

One of the major drivers of the legislation was the need to hold subdivision.  The intent was to preserve existing abilities to subdivide but to stop the further loosening up of rules so that the gradual and almost inevitable loosening up of the rules would stop.  Ten years on and the Act is doing what was intended.

The report is intended to highlight ongoing threats to the Ranges.

The biggest current threat is Kauri dieback.  If we do not get on top of this problem then we face the prospect of losing all Kauri within the next few decades.

Such a result would be a catastrophe.

The Act has had a very important spiritual effect on the area.

It reminds us that we live in a very special, very fragile area.

And we need to look after after it.

Hopefully the next report due in 5 years time will show that we are getting on top of Kauri dieback.

And that the Ranges are still magnificent, rugged and protected.

The Glen Eden apartments

A couple of weeks ago I attended a meeting organised by the West Auckland group Housing Call to Action.  A representative from Compass, the organisation that has the job of  managing the social housing in the Glen Eden apartments was invited to set out how Compass was going to manage what could be a tricky job.

The meeting was very well attended.  People from a variety of backgrounds, including social services, business, political and community were present.

Steve Tollestrup asked a very pertinent question.  People wanted to know if the Apartments will work.  The very laudable goal by Ted Manson is to provide people with a chance and a roof over their heads.  There is no greater disruption to the prospects of a citizen, especially a young citizen, than substandard housing. And there is a keen desire to make the apartments work.

Michelle Clayton has suggested that there should be a community liaison committee to help introduce the new residents to the local community and I think this is a great idea.

There has been some preliminary talk about what shape the committee could take, but it could involve people from the local community, social providers, Central Government and the local board and offer assistance to Compass to make sure that the completion of the building and the introduction of the new residents to the local area goes as smoothly as possible.

If this is done well it could be an exemplar for how intensification in Auckland should be achieved.  And it will mean that local people currently homeless or living in sub standard housing and their kids will have a proper place to stay.

It is vital that we, all of us, make this work.  Auckland is intensifying, there is no avoiding this.  And we have a housing crisis.  And a transport crisis.  Building upward and around public transport hubs is the only way to ensure our sustainability as a city.

Piha meeting about Emergency Response

The local board organised a public meeting at Piha for residents to ask questions about the emergency response to the recent storm and to discuss what needs to be done better the next time we have an emergency.

This was the second meeting of its sort in Piha.  The first was for people identified as having a major role in emergency management and provided the board with very helpful feedback from them.  The latest meeting was to allow all of Piha to have input into what the board is doing to improve responses to emergency management.

Piha has had its fair share of problems with a fire, two floods and a severe storm event all happening within the past couple of years.

The meeting was well attended and the members of the panel should be thanked for their contribution.  These included representatives from the Fire Service, Police, Emergency Management, Red Cross, Council, and perhaps most importantly Vector.

Their contributions were very helpful and the job that the local board has assumed, the preparation of a draft Emergency Management Plan for Piha for consideration by the community can continue.  And clearly the problems posed by flooding in the Glenesk Vally need particular attention.

Special thanks to Steve Tollestrup, Sandra Coney and Claire Liousse who all have put a huge amount of work into this.

Watercare and the Waima water treatment plant

The meetings of the community liaison group continue.  Watercare is going through the process of preparing preliminary designs for the new water treatment plant.

The litigation over the meaning of Watercare’s designation has now been completed.  The Titirangi Protection group have identified, rightfully in my view, issues with the existing Unitary Plan designation that Watercare is relying on.  Both the Environmental and High Court recognised those deficiencies but concluded that the designation does allow Watercare to proceed.

The ecological assessments have been completed but it is not clear how they will affect any design.

And the effects on landscape, local heritage features and the community have not been properly ascertained.

I had previously expressed the hope that through smart design the effects on the local community and on the environment could be kept to an absolute minimum.  I am less confident that such an outcome will happen.

The process needs some sort of inspirational input from outside, a cutting edge plan that will minimise the environmental effect and make everyone satisfied if not happy.

Time will tell if this happens.

Christine Rose

The Board’s Kauri Dieback Community Coordinator and one and only directly funded employee (contractor) Christine Rose is sadly leaving us.  She has held the job of Dieback community coordinator for the past three years and has worked tirelessly educating and talking to people, communities and schools about the danger of Kauri dieback and what we have to do to preserve this taonga of the Waitakere Ranges.  She was offered a job for World Animal Protection doing what she loves and has decided to take this position.

Christine has had a long standing relationship with the west.  She was formerly an Auckland Regional Councillor and was deputy chair when the ARC decided to support the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act.  She has been and continues to be a passionate defender of Maui’s dolphin.

All the best for your future Christine.

Kakano Youth Arts Collective and Arataki Visitor’s Centre

Finally a big thanks to Mandy Patmore and the young artists of the Kakano Youth Arts Centre and in particular a young talented artist Kyro for their contribution of outstanding art with the theme of keep Kauri standing to the Arataki Visitor’s centre.  It was my pleasure to attend a ceremony to launch the artwork.

The big blue Waitakere report and fixing our water quality

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The Waitakere Ranges Local Board has commissioned a report into water quality on the Manukau Harbour and the West Coast. The report, titled Big Blue Waitakere, has now been released for public comment.

To be frank the water quality is appalling. This local board area has half of the region’s trouble spots. Wood Bay and Laingholm Beach in particular are shut too often. And the Piha and Te Henga lagoons have unsafe contamination levels occurring far too frequently.

Aucklanders know that our water quality is not up to scratch. Colmar Brunton conducted a recent poll that showed that 61% of Aucklanders supported and 33% opposed the proposed Water quality targeted rate recently passed by Council. And in the Waitakere Ranges Local Board area the support figure was 77% support with 18% opposed. It is almost unheard of for a proposed increase in rates to be so popular. But locals clearly want our waterways to be swimmable without the need to check on a website to make sure that this is so and are willing to pay for this.

The intent is that the report should start a discussion with local communities about water quality in our beaches and lagoons and what should we do to improve their quality. We want to prompt a wide-ranging local conversation about our marine and coastal environment, how we interact with it and how we work together to protect and restore it. We intend that there is the start of a conversation with local communities to work out what the objectives should be and what we need to do to achieve those objectives.

The report itself is complex and identifies a number of threats and areas for concern. From the Executive Summary:

Some of the greatest threats to the diversity and resilience of marine and coastal habitats are global issues such as green- house gas emissions and associated climate change, ocean acidification and sea level rise. Several management actions identified relate to how the local board can advocate for local scale contributions to carbon emissions that contribute to these global issues.

The key pressures affecting the marine and coastal habitats within the WRLB area include; urban development and dis- charge of contaminants; fishing pressure and methods; habitat destruction; wastewater pollution; rubbish, plastics and marine debris; invasive species; and potential risks associated with petroleum and sand exploration and mining.

While improvements have been made to local and regional management approaches, 90% of our native seabirds and more than a quarter of our native marine mammals are threat- ened with or are at risk of extinction. The rapid expansion of urbanised Auckland has resulted in coastal marine habitats and ecosystems becoming degraded. Chemical contaminants, high levels of nutrients and discharged sediments from waterways will continue to result in negative impacts. Even with the implementation of best practice management, it is unknown how irreversible these ecosystem-level changes may be.

The report sets out eight management objectives designed to focus the debate in what can and should happen in discrete areas.  These include a focus on water quality, habitat diversity and natural character, natural coastal processes,
sustainable fisheries, threatened species which includes the critically endangered Māui’s dolphin, the offshore environment, recreational value and safety and the accumulation of knowledge and research by local communities.

The work is mandated by the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act 2008.

Heritage features include the area’s terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems of prominent indigenous character that include wetland, and dune systems that provide a diversity of habitats for indigenous flora and fauna that have natural scenic beauty with a specific reference to the the coastal areas which have a natural and dynamic character, and contribute to the area’s vistas.

The heritage objectives include protecting, restoring, and enhancing the area and its heritage features.

A community hui is planned for June 20 at 6 pm at the Glen Eden Recreational Hall.  Details of the event are here.

If you are unable to make the event but wish to let me have your thoughts email me at my Council email.

Chair’s report May 2018 – the Power of Community

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Civil Defence and Piha

Recent events at Piha have provided a good opportunity for Council to review its preparedness for emergencies. A major storm caused power outages for extended periods of time and then localised heavy rainfall caused flooding in Glenesk Road. Flooding had also occurred there in January after another localised downpour. A more recent heavy rain event caused already nervous residents to fear a repeat although thankfully a third flood did not eventuate.

With the effects of climate change becoming more pronounced I regret to say that these sorts of events are going to become more regular.

During these emergencies some things worked well.

The community response was magnificent. Local fire brigades did what they could to make sure that locals had somewhere to go to for basics such as a wash or a toilet stop. The surf club rescued stranded residents using their boats. Local community groups and individuals volunteered the use of the resources that they had.

Council officers volunteered their time to go door to door in some areas to check that each household was ok.

The local community facebook pages performed a good job in disseminating information. Bethells Te Henga’s Bukino Faso quality communications infrastructure needs a rethink because in times of crisis reliable communications channels are vital.

Overall there was an outstanding community response and many examples of kindness and dedication.

Social media assumed an importance I have not seen before. During the near flood event at Piha I was able to receive messages and comments via facebook about the height of the Glenesk River as it rose and then send this onto Civil Defence while attending a meeting concerning Weeds and Pests.

Other aspects did not go so well. I have real concerns about the stability and resilience of the power supply to the west particularly to the coastal area. Although the storm was not in the most severe of categories (it was a category two storm with four being the maximum strength) widespread disruption to the west’s power supply occurred.

And the interaction between Civil Defence, the emergency services and the community also needs to be checked to make sure that it is optimal.

Now that things are settling down it is time to review what happened and what needs to be done to lessen the disruption that will be caused by the next significant storm event.

So what do we do so that we are better prepared next time?

There has to be a big question as to the resilience of the power network. In my home suburb of Titirangi houses were without power for days on end. I appreciate that the coastal villages posed extra difficulty but Titirangi should not have been that difficult to fix.

Undergrounding of power supply has to be a priority. But there does not appear to be the resources to do this. And there appears to be large gaps in Vector’s ability to pinpoint power outages.

For the coastal villages such as Piha localised power should be given serious consideration. With enough solar panels and a wind turbine or two combined with an intelligent localised network it could become self sufficient in power and show the rest of the country how it is done. Aotea Great Barrier Island relies on solar power and generators. Maybe Piha should think about doing the same.

To kick off the discussion the local board invited some Piha and Karekare locals who were heavily involved in the response to a gathering where we asked three simple questions, what worked well, what was the greatest challenge and what can be improved on. These included the Fire Service, the Surf Club, local social media coordinators, the RSA and many others.

The meeting was an opportunity for us to listen to and talk with locals. I suspect that the event was cathartic for many and allowed them to process what was a very traumatic event for them, particularly those living in the Glenesk area.

It is clear that there are some early practical things that can be achieved. Ensuring that the Piha Surf Club has an emergency power supply is one of them.

The community has asked that we collate their responses, incorporate these into the draft emergency response plan that is in existence and then put this out for consultation. This work is under way.

I intend to report on progress in relation to this in the near furture.

Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area 5 yearly Monitoring Report

Council last week formally adopted the 2018 Waitakere Ranges monitoring report. This is the second monitoring report and was dedicated to Denise Yates who had a great deal to do with the formation of the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act as well as the preparation of the first report when she was chair of the Board.

The Act was an attempt to provide for meaningful protection of the Ranges and to protect against the cumulative degradation and subdivision of the Ranges through conventional RMA processes.

At the time it was controversial, caused considerable debate in the community but 10 years on things have settled down and erstwhile opponents are now at peace with the heritage area concept.

And people are proud to live in a statutority recognised heritage area.

The report is important. It is meant to assess how well the Act is performing, how well Council is going in its statutory obligation to protect and enhance the area, and what threats the area is facing.

The document itself is a complex and impressive collation of lots of information.

The original focus, subdivision, is working out in my view as intended. Existing subdivision rights are being exercised but growth predictions suggest that once these rights have been exercised there should be no more.

Kauri dieback features heavily, thank Council for taking the strong action required to protect this taonga.

Te Kawarau A Maki who have provided critical commentary which is included in the report. The Act anticipates that Council will enter into a deed of acknowledgement with Ngati Whatua and Te Kawarau A Maki. Work on this should be a priority and could address TKAM’s concerns.

The report is not meant to be a PR exercise. It is to show is what is going right and what needs to be done to make sure that this precious area remains protected.

Greenways plan

Consultation on this important document is nearing an end.

It is our draft list of possible future projects to create walking and cycling tracks throughout the local board area.

It is in part a collection of maps showing existing paths and plans that may have existed for many years. They have been collected together in graphical form so that we can have a look at them from a bird’s eye view.

This helps us work out where the gaps are and also what the priorities should be.

Walkways and cycleways are important because they improve communities, help with health and traffic congestion and they make villages and urban areas better places to be.

There are a couple of caveats in relation to the plan. Not all of the supported projects will be built in the near future.

There are about 60 different projects in the document.

Nine are identified as possible priorities but this will need to be worked through.

To give you an idea of what is possible the local board has in the past 6 years built four substantial walkways, the Landing Road stairs, the Rimutaka Walkway, the Henderson Valley walkway and the cycleway from Oratia to Parrs Park. The total cost of these four projects is in the vicinity of $2 to $3 million.

And to put this into perspective we currently receive $.5 million per year for capital projects in the road corridor although there is hope that this will be nearly doubled in the near future.

The new government has indicated that because of safety and health considerations it will place much greater emphasis on walking and cycling projects and we are hopeful that there will be a lot more central funding so that more of these projects can be built.

The second caveat is kauri dieback and the closure of the forest. These plans were completed in August last year and were formally passed in December. We were happy to release these for consultation but certainly tracks through bush areas were going to be much more carefully scrutinised and this is especially so after the forest was closed.

The public response has been really good. I was invited to a meeting in Oratia and was slightly bemused not to mention worried that there were a hundred people wanting to talk about the draft. An old walkway through pristine bush that I was happy to rule out was one of the causes. There was also a preference that any infrastructure in the area is sympathetic to the local area. One problem with the Oratia cycleway is that it is white concrete and I agree that better design and more sympathetic infrastructure should be a priority.

Carolynne Stone came up with the great idea of getting the community to design new walkways starting with Parker Road. The theory is that they do not need a concrete path along the full strength of the road, rather there are sections that need work and other areas, for instance flat grassed areas which function perfectly well as a walkway.

I look forward to receiving their feedback and proposals. This sort of approach could mean walkways that are not only practical and more respectful of the local area but also cheaper.

Auckland Council’s long term plan consultation

The consultation has now concluded and Auckland Council is to shortly make decisions on its budget for the next ten years.

The Board’s One Local Initiative is a plan to enhance Glen Eden township.

The plan has a number of aspects to it but the primary advocacy area is the development of a town square using predominately local board resources and the creation of a laneway to join the town square to West Coast Road.

This will be augmented by Auckland Transport work to slow down traffic through the village and improve street amenity.

The need is because the area is facing fundamental change.

Glen Eden is forecast to grow dramatically.

Already the train station is a significant driver of activity.

The use of Glen Eden Train Station has increased by 40 percent over the past three years, with around 650,000 trips annually.

The station is right within the town centre and we want to work with AT to improve the amenity around the train station.

The local board has strong support for Central Rail Link delivery in 2024.

This is a transformative project. People will be able to get from Glen Eden to the middle of town in about 25 minutes by rail.

There is already significant growth because of the existing system and in anticipation of what will happen in the future.

The Ted Manson Foundation is currently building two ten story apartment houses within 100 metres of the train station.

Housing Corp has a five story apartment house being planned and there are plans for a further apartment house within Glen Eden although I understand plans have stalled.

Change is clearly coming.

Glen Eden is going to transform from a sleepy pleasant area to a significant transport node with medium and high density housing being common place.

This is why the local board believes that our One Local Initiative is so important, so that we can get Glen Eden ready for the future.

Glen Eden has been tagged for future development many times and there have been a number of plans prepared in the past.

The local board has done what we can with limited resources to try and advance development.

For instance we put money from the transport capital fund into design work for AT’s park and ride opened a couple of years ago.

The park and ride was important and is very popular. Already there are complaints that it is full.

We have also spent $160,000 on design work in anticipation that the Town Square project will proceed.

We have tagged the sum of $2.5 million from our own funds to aspects of this project.

The response from the consultation suggests that locals are supportive of this project. 81% of respondents fully or partially supported the proposal being a priority and only 18% did not think it was a priority.

The board’s feedback to Council on the other matters consulted on were as follows:

* We support the proposed regional fuel tax with the caveat that we are concerned about effect on low socio economic groups. Locally 59% of respondents supported the tax with 34% opposing it. The Regional figures were 46% for and 48% opposed.
* We support the proposed water quality targeted rate. Locally 77% of respondents supported the tax with 18% opposing it. The Regional figures were 61% for and 33% opposed.
* We support “option B plus” plus in relation to the environmental special rate. This would result in a $66 per annual rate increase for the average ratepayer. We supported the enhanced rate so that the regional pest management strategy can be fully funded. The Regional figures were no support for an increased rate 25%, option A ($21 pa) 26%, option B ($47 pa) 29% and other (generally option B plus) 20%. The local equivalent figures were were no support for an increased rate 18%, option A ($21 pa) 18%, option B ($47 pa) 37% and other (generally option B plus) 28%.
* In relation to the proposed Rates increase we are concerned that 2.5% may not be enough, particularly given our position regarding the proper funding of the weed and pest strategy.

Our other advocacy items are:

* Continuing advocacy to seek a return to historic levels of funding to be made available for Waitākere Ranges Heritage Area programmes under the local board’s decision-making control.
* Funding to deliver aspects of Waitākere Ranges ‘greenways’ plan’ which is intended in part to improve access to public transport.
* Funding to progress the now closed Te Henga Quarry to become either a regional or local park. Funding was collected for this purpose by Waitakere City but has disappeared in the amalgamation and we would like it returned.

Laingholm Star Wars celebration and photography project

Steve, Saffron and I had the pleasure of attending Laingholm Primary School for its annual Star Wars day which was combined with a very special occasion. Former Mayor Bob Harvey and World renowned photographer and philantropist and philanthropist Ashok Kochhar used the occasion to launch Ashok’s project to give film cameras to some school kids to take photos of their world.

The intent is that the children have two months to photograph their world and then return the cameras to their teachers and then the best photographs are sent back to the school for an exhibition. It’s a simple but stunning idea to get children involved in analysing the environment around them and recording it.

The work is to be collated and published. I look forward to seeing the result.

Lessons from the recent storm

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The past week has been a difficult time for the West.

A significant storm event has caused consternation to the west’s supply of power and major disruption to the day to day lives of westies.

Now that things are settling down it is time to review what happened and what needs to be done to lessen the disruption that will be caused by the next significant storm event.

Because it is clear that with climate change and particularly the increase in temperature in the waters surrounding New Zealand the frequency and intensity of these sorts of storm events are going to increase, not decrease.

First to the storm itself. Russell Brown at Public News has asked some very pertinent questions, the main one being why did a category two storm event cause the sort of damage anticipated by a category one four storm event. And the associated question is what sort of carnage would a really big storm event cause? Over the past few years I have seen a few sub tropical cyclones skirt around Auckland. What would happen if one hit the super city head on?

From Russell’s post:

If we regard last Tuesday a stress-test for infrastructure ahead of the super-storm assessed as Auckland’s main disaster risk, the city has not done well.

Indeed, we’ve likely done worse than anyone expected. Last week’s storm was not an ex-tropical cyclone, but at its worst it was said to be the equivalent of a Category 2 cyclone. According to the relevant page in the Emergency Management section of Auckland Council’s website, a Category 2 storm would be expected to bring the “risk of power failure”. A Category 3 storm would make power failure “likely”, while a Category 4 storm, with winds of 225 to 279km/h, would cause “widespread” power failure. At one point last week, 180,000 homes, representing more than half of retail electricity customers in Auckland, lost service. That seems quite “widespread”.

And so much of the power outages seemed to be concentrated out west. The coastal villages, including Piha, Karekare and Te Henga Bethells were all lacking in power for extended periods of time. Piha’s power was only restored last Saturday, thankfully ahead of the predicted time which was later this week. Te Henga Bethells is still struggling to gain power. There are still lots of pockets of households without power because of individual supply problems. Almost a week after the storm event.

Vector claimed after a couple of days that only 10% of households were still without power. My very strong impression is that many, far too many, of these households were out west.

So what do we do so that we are better prepared next time?

There has to be a big question as to the resilience of the network. In my home suburb of Titirangi houses were without power for days on end. I appreciate that the coastal villages posed extra difficulty but Titirangi should not have been that difficult a fix.

Undergrounding of power supply has to be a priority. But there does not appear to be the resources to do this.

And for the coastal villages such as Piha localised power should be given serious consideration. With enough solar panels and a wind turbine or two combined with an intelligent localised network it could become self sufficient in power and show the rest of the country how it is done. Great Barrier Island Aotea relies on solar power and generators. Maybe Piha should think about doing the same.

Vector’s information supply was frankly woeful. The phone App is a great idea but the data it was supplying did not reflect my on the ground experience. The data should be seamless. The App should be showing Vector’s synopsis of its own data. Clearly things needs to change things if this is the case.

The community response was magnificent. Local fire brigades did what they could to make sure that locals had somewhere to go to for basics such as a wash or a toilet stop. Local community groups and individuals volunteered the use of the resources that they had. Council officers volunteered their time to go door to door in some areas to check that each household was ok.

The local community facebook pages performed a good job in disseminating information. Bethells Te Henga’s Bukino Faso quality communications infrastructure needs a rethink because in times of crisis reliable communications channels are vital.

Council’s response will need to be reviewed. I had the benefit of regular information updates which I then posted on social media. But we will need to check to make sure this is sufficient.

Nearly 250 portaloos were delivered and 20,000 litres of water were also distributed to those in need. If this was enough and did it happen quickly enough will need to be considered.

Just remember this was a category two storm. It clearly shows that the region’s resilience and ability to withstand and recover from a category one four storm is lacking.

We need to review what has happened. And make sure that next time we can do better.

Auckland Council to reconsider Kauri dieback and the closure of the Waitakere Ranges

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This issue has been a bit of a roller coaster for Auckland Council and for the local board over the past few months.

A few months ago Te Kawerau A Maki declared a Rāhui over the Waitakere Ranges.  I have every respect for their rationale and for their deep abiding interest in the ongoing health of Te Wao Nui a Tiriwa, the great forest of Tiriwa.  The declaration of the Rāhui was caused by concern at Council’s ongoing delay at doing something to meet this crisis that the forest is facing.

The Local Board has spent a great deal of time on the issue and working out our position.  Our initial position was  that all tracks deemed to be high and medium risk of the further spread of the disease should be shut.  This was communicated to Council at its December 2017 meeting during the slot in the agenda allowing for local board input on the agenda..  Council sort of adopted that proposal in that although the resolution talked about closing high and medium risk tracks only some were closed.

We realised over summer that Council’s position was not working.  A trip I took to the entrances of different walks showed many people wanting to walk on the tracks.  Council’s professed support for the Rāhui was only causing confusion and the welcome signs and overflow parking areas belied an interest in keeping people away from the forest.  The only way to stop the spread of Kauri disease was a simple message, that the forest is closed.  Otherwise the situation was far too confusing for the population at large and the messages being put out by Council were far too mixed.

Staff came to the same conclusion and in February of this year a further set of proposals were put before the Environment and Community Committee.

We had the opportunity of considering the agenda item and we then reviewed the position which we reached in December 2017.  Rather than close only medium and high risk tracks we decided that the park needs to be closed and only specific areas left open.

We suggested that open areas could include coastal walks without Kauri and Watercare service roads.

We thought that there needed to be a process to determine which other tracks can be opened and when.  Te Kawarau A Maki and the community should be involved in this.  And proper enforcement of the closure is critical.

Our position was that Council needed to take a pause, review the current situation, create a long term coherent plan and determine what will provide public access and what will protect Kauri.

Council decided to do this although the wording of the resolutions and in particular the phrase “areas which would reach the requirement of a controlled area notice” still made the situation not completely clear.

The officers were required to consult with local communities, Te Kawerau A Maki and the Local Board as well as interested individuals and groups.

We were asked for our feedback.  This was as follows:

  1. The forested area of Waitakere Ranges needs to be closed and only coastal beaches, coastal walks without kauri, and service roads to be left open.
  2. This provides a clear policy direction and an unambiguous message to the public from council that the forest is closed.
  3. Once that has happened council needs to take a pause, review the current situation, and create a comprehensive long term plan for the future of the park to determine where public access can be provided and how to protect kauri.
  4. The formulation of an overall plan for the Waitakere Ranges needs to consider a range of factors beyond kauri dieback, including the impact on visitor management and experience and the overall environmental protection of the ranges.
  5. All other tracks should remain closed until this planning work is completed and they are determined to be safe. This includes the Kitekite Falls track.
  6. We are concerned that if a few tracks are kept open they will be inundated with visitors with the associated risk that the tracks will be degraded and ruined. This will make it harder to stop the spread of Kauri PTA.
  7. There needs to be a process to determine which tracks can be opened and when.  Te Kawarau A Maki needs to be closely involved in the decision making. The community should also be involved in this process.
  8. Waitakere Ranges Local Board is seeking greater involvement in the decision making concerning kauri dieback in the Waitakere Ranges.
  9. Proper enforcement of the closure is critical.

A further report has been prepared and is for consideration by the committee this week.

A further three options have been proposed for consideration.  These are essentially as follows:

Option A, which is recommended, is to close the forested areas of the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park, as publicly consulted on, including prioritised openings as tracks are upgraded.  Under this option a total of 44 tracks would be opened, including Kitekite Falls Track.

Option B is to implement a more permissive approach and in addition to the proposed exceptions to closure, also keep tracks within the coastal strip open – with rolling openings.

Option C is to implement a more conservative approach and close all forested areas of the Regional Park.

The tracks that would remain open under option A are in the following list.  An asterix means that they would still have to have surface works completed to ensure they meet the required standard.

ANAWHATA BEACH TRACK
ARATAKI NATURE TRAIL
BEVERIDGE TRACK
*BYERS TRACK
CAVE ROCK TRACK
CON BRYAN TRACK
*DREAMLANDS TRACK
EXHIBITION DRIVE WALK (Watercare)
HUIA DAM ROAD (Watercare)
IAN WELLS TRACK (Partial – Piha Road to Auxillary Dam)
KAKAMATUA BEACH WALK
KAKAMATUA INLET TRACK
KARAMATURA LOOP WALK
*KITEKITE TRACK
*KNUTZEN TRACK
LAIRD THOMPSON TRACK
LAKE WAINAMU TRACK
*LARGE KAURI WALK
LION ROCK TRACK
*LONG ROAD TRACK (Partial – from road end to where paddock meets the forest)
LOOKOUT TRACK (Arataki Visitor Centre)
MANUKAU BAR VIEW WALK
MARAWHARA WALK
MCELWAIN LOOKOUT TRACK
MCLACHLAN MONUMENT TRACK
MERCER BAY LOOP TRACK
MT DONALD MC LEAN WALK
*OMANAWANUI TRACK
*OPANUKU PIPELINE TRACK (Partial – from Mountain Road to the campground)
*ORPHEUS GRAVES WALK
PARARAHA VALLEY TRACK
PARKER TRACK
PIPELINE ROAD and part of PIPELINE TRACK (Watercare)
*PURIRI RIDGE TRACK
ROSE TRACK
SIGNAL HOUSE TRACK
SLIP TRACK
SPRAGGS MONUMENT TRACK
TASMAN LOOKOUT TRACK
TE HENGA WALKWAY (DOC)
UPPER NIHOTUPU DAM ROAD (Watercare) AND UPPER NIHOTUPU WALK
WAITAKERE DAM WALK (Watercare)
WHITE TRACK
ZIG-ZAG TRACK

My reading is that option A is a weakening of the position that we advocated for. We said close everything except those demonstrably safe then have a stocktake and work on a process to then allow for safe tracks to open. But the list of tracks being left open, including Kitekite Falls Track, suggests that the reach is much wider than we would have preferred.

I was happy with service roads and coastal tracks without Kauri being left open.  I don’t want to see everything closed.  But I think more work needs to go into the list of tracks that are to be left open or reopened.

These are my personal views only at this stage.  The local board still is to reach a final position on how we handle Tuesday’s meeting.

This issue is a really tough issue and I suspect that for as long as I remain in politics, however long that is, this will continue to be one of the most important issues requiring my attention.  But the King of Te Wao Nui a Tiriwa is threatened and all elected members owe it to do what we can to preserve it.

Chair’s report March 2018 – Glen Eden Apartments, plastic free initiatives and Holi!

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Chair’s report March 2018

The new year has been off to a frenetic part and there is a lot to report on.

Ted Manson and the Glen Eden Apartments

The ten storey Glen Eden apartments are now being constructed. Within a year or so the area will have 160 new residences, many of them social housing.

The man behind the project is Ted Manson and refreshingly he is doing this for philantrophic reasons.

He has an interesting background.  He grew up in poverty and spent a great deal of his early years living in a state house.  He then became exceptionally successful in business.

The Herald recently ran an article on him and he was quoted as saying this:

“I used to think ‘if I can come up from a state house, anyone can’ but as you get older, you start to realise life is not fair. Not everyone can do it …

I woke up one day and I got a social conscience. That happens at some stage of your life for some, but not for all.  Up until then, I was a capitalist.

Many people are enduring tough times and are under constant pressure and constraint because of hardship or misfortune. But robust, safe, warm, healthy homes which ensure security of tenure would give them the stability to contribute positively to their community and improve their quality of life.”

The opening of the apartments and the welcoming and integration of the new residents into the community will be an important job and I believe the local board has a role to play in assisting with this.  I have suggested that we meet with members of Manson’s foundation so we can discuss how to make this happen.

Housing Call to action hui

Housing call to action is a local group dedicated to improving the plight of the homeless.  The local board gives them some support and it was our pleasure to provide them with the use of the Ceramco Park Function Centre for a recent community hui.

It was well attended with over a hundred people present.  It was very informative with presentations from MSD and Housing Corporation and the highlight being a speech by Minister of Housing Phil Twyford.

Clearly addressing the housing crisis is a priority for the new Government.  And the solution is conceptually a very simple one, more houses have to be built.

As well as outlining Government policies to improve supply Twyford also talked about a change of tone and approach.  Instead of Housing Corp being essentially a property management company he is proposing a more holistic approach so that tenants needs are met.  And he also wishes to improve security of tenure so that the relentless churn of homes that some endure will lessen.

The Hui showed the importance of Government action.  But it also highlighted the importance of community and how the two sectors working together can address this most difficult of issues that Auckland faces.

Woodlands Park proposed new Watercare Water Treatment plant

Over the past few months Watercare’s team of ecologists with some independent contribution have been performing an ecological survey of the area.  The report has been completed and Watercare has publicly consulted on the results.

I thought that the consultation was too early as the construction plans have not yet been finalised and views should not be sought until all the information was out there and people can appreciate the enormity of the plant and the scale of clearance that would be required.

Some of the questions asked at the consultation were helpful.  For instance “What opportunities do you see for reusing [the existing] facility, recognising some of the newer extensions (non-heritage aspects) of the plant may be demolished?”  My personal response to this question would be “as much as possible.  The currently cleared site should be recycled as much as possible, and this includes the settlement ponds, the chemical storage area and the office space.

Another question that was asked was about the future of the Nihotupu Filter Station which is a heritage building.  This poses an interesting question, if there really is no alternative, what should be sacrificed?  High quality vegetation or the filter station?

And the recent disruption caused to the area by the resealing of Scenic Drive has already shown the susceptivity of the area to chaos caused  by public works.  The thought of the effect of the construction of a large plant over a couple of years on the area does not bear thinking about.

Watercare map showing categorisation of area’s ecology.

My personal view is that more a more detailed construction proposal needs to be consulted on.  And the consultation needs to be sufficiently sophisticated so that all options and alternatives are considered.

Council ten year draft budget

Consultation on Auckland Council’s budget for the next ten years is now open and by the time this report will be considered will be nearly over.  I would urge everyone to submit on this.

Council is proposing that for the next year there will be a general rates increase of 2.5%. Individual increases will vary according to the value of your property. If your house value has gone up slower than the regional average then you may get a decrease. I checked online what my rates will be and it suggested that for my Titirangi home I will enjoy a decrease.

It is also proposed that the transport levy be discontinued and replaced with a regional fuel tax.

I never supported the transport levy. It meant that a Piha resident who has no access to public transport would pay in effect more than Sky City whose generation of vehicle trips in Auckland is substantial.

I am a cautious supporter of the regional fuel tax although I would like to understand more fully what effect it will have on locals. Overall it is anticipated that the fuel tax will cost an average household $140 each year. The cost will be 10c per litre.  The extra money will be used for much needed transport projects.

Other proposals are important for the west.

The targeted water quality rate proposal of $66 for the average household per year would allow for the accelerated roll out of projects needed to improve Auckland’s water quality. Poor water quality is an important issue for our area. We have ten of the most polluted swimming areas in the region. In my view all our beaches and lagoons should be swimmable.

The proposed rate will fund projects to reduce wastewater overflows into the Waitemata Harbour and reduce stormwater volumes entering the Manukau Harbour. There will also be work on reducing litter and pollutant flows into the stormwater system throughout the region and a system for proactive monitoring of onsite waste water treatment systems such as septic tanks will be established.

The other important initiative is the targeted environmental rate. Three options are offered for discussion. The lowest is essentially the status quo and will mean that $109 million will be spent over the next ten years on environmental matters. The risk of Kauri dieback spreading is said to be 80% and generally significant environmental degradation will occur.

The highest option will cost the average household $47 each year and will result in a total of $420 million being spent on environmental initiatives. About a quarter of the total collected will be spent on dealing with Kauri dieback. The risk of spread is then estimated to be 25%. And more significant action regarding weeds and pests will be able to be taken.

Some westies are proposing that the increase should be even higher and set at a level that would allow for the Regional Pest Management Strategy to be implemented in full.  The extra cost would be $12 per average household per annum.

Both the targeted water quality rate and the targeted environmental rate are important for out West and I urge people to consider supporting them including the suggested enhanced environmental rate. They will address two major environmental problems that we have, poor water quality in our beaches and lagoons and the devastation of our forest by the spread of Kauri dieback.

Locally the board has prioritised improvements to Glen Eden as its priority. We also will continue to advocate for increased budgets for the Waitakere Ranges heritage area and work on completing and implementing our Greenways plan.  We are hopeful that current Council deliberations will result in the necessary funding for these important projects to go ahead.

Kauri dieback

Since the writing of my last report Auckland Council’s Environment and Community Committee have again considered the issue of what to do about Kauri dieback.

The local board presented to this meeting.

After considering the further agenda item we reviewed our position which we reached in December 2017.  Rather than close only medium and high risk tracks we decided that the park needs to be closed and only specific areas left open.

We suggested that open areas could include coastal walks without Kauri and Watercare service roads.

We thought that there needs to be a process to determine which other tracks can be opened and when.  Te Kawarau A Maki and the community should be involved in this.  And proper enforcement of the closure is critical.

Our position was that Council needed to take a pause, review the current situation, create a long term coherent plan and determine what will provide public access and what will protect Kauri.

Council is currently consulting on the resolutions passed which essentially matched our view of what should happen.  A further report is to be presented to the committee in April.

Scenic Drive upgrade

As part of regular maintenance work Scenic Drive between Titirangi and Woodlands Park is being resealed.

The work is being performed at night to minimise traffic disruption.  I am aware that this is causing many local people sleep disruption.  The contractor and Auckland Transport are willing to work with locals to do what they can.  If anyone is experiencing problems drop me a line and I will make sure Auckland Transport follows this up.

Seaweek

The infamous Mels Barton has again run a successful Seaweek series of events.  This included the annual clean up of Cornwallis beach and the sea castle competition.  Along with Deborah Russell and Steve Tollestrup I was privileged to be a judge of the competition.  The competition gave an emphasis on sustainability and there were some very good entries.  Competition was fierce with five entries being within a couple of points of each other.

It was good to see so many young people being involved and presenting on the dangers of plastic to our environment.

Laingholm Kindergarden visit

Love Titirangi who brought to the west the plastic bag free campaign that launched last year held a recent event to highlight the issues posed by plastic.  The Local Board provided them with support and it was good to see the support used so well.  The event involved young students at Laingholm Kindergarten creating posters showing why we all have to do something about our plastic use.

The involvement of young people in our community gave the event so much power.  These people have the most to lose if we continue to trash our environment and we owe it to them to start preserving what we have.  The damage that plastics are causing to our environment, particularly to our oceans, mean that we have to dramatically change our behaviour, now.

The event was attended by local MP Deborah Russell and myself as well as media.  Deborah had the job of reading a chosen story to the young citizens.  I can confidently say that this would have been much more satisfying than her average Parliamentary session!

Holi festival

One of the nicest things about living out west is the diversity of our communities.  Part of the standard speech I give to citizenship ceremonies advises new citizens that we do not expect them to forgo their culture and they should continue to be proud about their cultural heritage.  I am really pleased that people do and that we live in a community where everyone relishes the cultural diversity that we have.

Holi festival is an event where Indian culture is celebrated.  And celebrated in style.  It is to commemorate the start of the Northern Hemisphere spring and the hope of a bountiful harvest.  It is also a time where people throw coloured powder at complete strangers and squirt water at each other.

I have been to three festivals.  I have never seen so many completely happy yet completely sober westies in all my time here.  I recommend that everyone goes to the next one.

Congratulations to the Waitakere Indian Association for a fabulous festival and I look forward to the next one.

The man behind the Glen Eden apartments

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The ten storey Glen Eden apartments are now being constructed. Within a year or so the area will have 160 new residences, many of them social housing.

The man behind the project is Ted Manson and refreshingly he is doing this for philantrophic reasons. The Herald last week ran an article where he was interviewed. And some of his comments really appealed to this dyed in the wool leftie.

From Anne Gibson at the Herald:

Ted Manson once believed life was fair, everyone could succeed and most people should be able to buy their own house.

But in the past five years, he changed his mind.

The head of property company Mansons TCLM, and founder of the four-year-old philanthropic Ted Manson Foundation, spent his early years in an Auckland state house and his father, Colin, was 28 before he could afford his first car.

Life was a struggle, as Manson clearly remembers. But at 63, he is also pleased with the way his life worked out.

With his father and now his sons, he expanded what is arguably the country’s wealthiest private property development and investment business, and built his own wealth to the point where his 60th birthday party featured Lorde performing, alongside Hayley Westenra and Rhys Darby as MC.

Manson describes a type of epiphany which prompted him to take an entirely new direction.

“I used to think ‘if I can come up from a state house, anyone can’ but as you get older, you start to realise life is not fair. Not everyone can do it,” he says as he drives from the Auckland CBD to the foundation’s newest project.

It is building $160 million of Auckland social housing: a 10- and 11-level Glen Eden project; an 18-level central city tower; an Avondale block is earmarked for a $60m venture; and he has his eye on New Lynn and Papatoetoe.

“I woke up one day and I got a social conscience. That happens at some stage of your life for some, but not for all,” says Manson. “Up until then, I was a capitalist.

“The foundation’s goal is to build and provide more than 300 apartments for social housing by 2022 to help those who are struggling, so they’re able to take the next step in life for a better future.

“Many people are enduring tough times and are under constant pressure and constraint because of hardship or misfortune. But robust, safe, warm, healthy homes which ensure security of tenure would give them the stability to contribute positively to their community and improve their quality of life.”

I have concerns about the towers and post construction I believe that integration of the new residents into the community is going to be absolutely vital.  The local board has a role to play in doing its best to ensure that the integration goes as smoothly as possible.  And the ratio of social housing to private housing may not be optimal.

But no one can criticise Ted for his generosity.  And we should all do what we can to make sure the development works.

Auckland Council consulting on special rates for kauri dieback and improved water quality

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Consultation on Auckland Council’s budget for the next ten years is now open.

Auckland Council is consulting on how much it should rate and what it should spend this on over the next decade.

On the income side a general increase of 2.5% is proposed. Individual increases will vary according to the value of your property. If your house value has gone up slower than the regional average then you may get a decrease. I checked online what my rates will be and it suggested that for my Titirangi home I will enjoy a decrease.

It is proposed that the transport levy will be discontinued and replaced with a regional fuel tax.

I never supported the transport levy. It meant that a Piha resident who has no access to public transport would pay in effect more than Sky City whose generation of vehicle trips in Auckland is substantial.

I am a cautious supporter of the regional fuel tax although I would like to understand more fully what effect it will have on locals. Overall it is anticipated that the fuel tax will cost an average household $140 each year. The cost will be 10c per litre.

Other proposals are important for the west.

There is proposed a targeted water quality rate of $66 for the average household per year. The rate will allow for the accelerated roll out of projects needed to improve Auckland’s water quality. Poor water quality is an important issue for our area. We have ten of the most polluted swimming areas in the region. In my view all our beaches should be swimmable. The proposed rate will fund projects to reduce wastewater overflows into the Waitemata Harbour and reduce stormwater volumes entering the Manukau Harbour. There will also be work on reducing litter and pollutants from entering stormwater throughout the reason and a system for proactive monitoring of onsite waste water treatment systems such as septic tanks will be established.

The other important initiative is the targeted environmental rate. Three options are offered for discussion. The lowest is essentially the status quo and will mean that $109 million will be spent over the next ten years on environmental matters. The risk of Kauri dieback spreading is said to be 80% and generally significant environmental degradation will occur.

The highest option will cost the average household $47 each year and will result in a total of $420 million being spent on environmental initiatives. About a quarter of the total collected will be spent on Kauri dieback. The risk of spread is then estimated to be 25%. And more significant action regarding weeds and pests will be able to be taken.

Both the targeted water quality rate and the targeted environmental rate are important for out West and I urge people to consider supporting them. They will address two major environmental problems that we have, poor water quality in our beaches and lagoons and the devastation of our forest by the spread of Kauri dieback.

Locally the board has prioritised improvements to Glen Eden as its priority. We also will continue to advocate for increased budgets for the Waitakere Ranges heritage area and work on completing and implementing our Greenways plan.

You can submit online. But remember that submissions must be received by March 28.

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.