Protest MP tips revolt if she ends up in court

By Anne Beston

A National MP says a regional council will have a revolt on its hands if it tries to take legal action against her or anyone else involved in an illegal chainsaw attack on mangroves.

Two-term Coromandel MP Sandra Goudie, re-elected with a 9787 majority, joined about 120 protesters the day after the election to clear a mangrove patch the size of two football fields in Whangamata Harbour.

Ms Goudie said she simply stacked mangroves that had already been chopped down.

Locals have long complained that the plants are marching ever-further into the harbour and surrounding waterways, clogging up areas it was once possible to waterski over.

Environment Waikato spokesman Hugh Keane said the regional council would meet Whangamata Harbour groups and protesters today but didn't rule out legal action.

"Obviously we have a range of options available to us under the Resource Management Act in terms of enforcement," he said.

Those could include issuing an abatement or infringement notice - the former an order warning of further action if the council's rules are breached again and the latter an instant fine of up to $1000, depending on the offence.

Mr Keane said prosecution was the "ultimate deterrent" and Environment Waikato would be reluctant to use it.

"We would rather work with our ratepayers than get into a conflict situation."

Mrs Goudie's presence at the mangrove protest did not send a "helpful message", he said.

Whangamata resident Jack Wells said residents had had a "gutsful" and were illegally clearing mangroves to "force the issue".

It cost ratepayers up to $17,000 to get resource consent two years ago to clear a small area.

"It's nonsense," Mr Wells said. "We don't want to lose our harbour."

He confirmed that Mrs Goudie worked as a "stacker" and said he was not worried about prosecution. He hoped the meeting would lead to a solution.

"We want an assurance from Environment Waikato they will get on and get this sorted out."

Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, Coromandel's former electorate MP, said Mrs Goudie was not known for her "ecological understanding".

Mangrove ecology

* Environment Waikato says mangroves play an important role in the estuarine ecosystem.

* They trap silt and mud, helping to prevent coastal erosion by protecting the shore from waves.

* More than 30 species of fish feed and shelter in mangroves at high tide at some stage of their lives.

* Many birds and insects are found around the plants. One insect, a leaf roller, lives only on mangroves.

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