Katikati community groups and individuals are concerned about the degradation of our rivers and streams and the decline of fish and shellfish in the Tauranga Harbour — some are supporting local iwi in their bid to prevent eco-toxins being discharged into our waterways.

Ngai Tamawhariua, Te Whanau A Tauwhao Ki Otawhiwhi and Ngai Te Rangi hapu made a submission to Bay of Plenty Regional Council opposing an application by Claymark Sawmills Ltd seeking a change to its discharge limits for the current treatment chemical.

Over the past 18 months iwi representatives Tiki Bluegum and Kevin Tohiariki have had meetings with regional council staff and Claymark to try to resolve their concerns.

Ongoing testing of the waterways has been carried out by Katikati Taiao (EnviroKatikati Charitable Trust) chairman and entomologist Peter Maddison and Uretara Estuary Managers chairman Lawrie Donald.

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Mr Maddison said they are concerned about the pollution in the harbour and are opposed to the discharge of ecotoxins to the freshwater and marine ecosystems of the Tauranga Moana and its catchments.

In a letter supporting Ngai Tamawhariua's submission, he said the loss of shellfish in the Te Mania-Rereatukahia estuaries, the death of thousands of crabs and the situation of the sea lettuce growth in the area and reported decline in local fisheries are issues of serious concern to our community.

"The hapu has for a long time fought the issue of the state of Tauranga Harbour.

"Their concerns of the decline and loss of shellfish and fish resources have been substantiated. The harbour is in a bad state and research isn't getting any better," he said.

Western Bay mayor Garry Webber, councillors Mike Williams, Peter Mackay and David Marshall also support Ngai Tamawhariua's objection to the application for three reasons — the disposal of discharges to waterways and council wastewater systems will allow ecotoxins to enter the surrounding waters of the mill site and discharge point for the council wastewater scheme near the shore off Matakana Island; there may be deficiencies in the process that the regional council determined that this application would not be publicly notified, and that the appropriate level of 'iwi participation' may not have been provided, outlined in a letter of support.

Kereama Bluegum from Ngai Tamawhariua said he was disappointed about the stories he was hearing of dead fish in the harbour.
Kereama Bluegum from Ngai Tamawhariua said he was disappointed about the stories he was hearing of dead fish in the harbour.

Iwi concerns about pollution

Estuary care group Uretara Estuary Managers has been working in the Bay of Plenty since 2004 and is preparing a strategy to improve, or maintain water quality in the Te Mania stream.

Land use and stream stability, along with removing fish passage impediments will be implemented with this plan. The group has secured funding and the commitment of many landowners in the catchment to implement the plan.

But an application to the Regional Council by sawmill Claymark for a resource consent to increase concentration of toxins in the waterway appears to be against the objectives of the UEM plan for the catchment, said chairman Lawrie Donald.

"We question the need to discharge additional toxins to our waterways."

Issues that concern UEM are whether the sawmill's existing consent conditions approved by Council are in line with the recommendations of the NZ Environmental Protection Authority.

"The application to increase the concentration of the toxins in the discharge consent conditions to above product recommended levels is of concern and this may have an impact on stream and estuarine life," Mr Donald said.

UEM is in the process of developing the plan now with a draft for public consultation by April.

A copy will be supplied to Claymark for their input, he said.

Mr Donald said most, if not all objectors to this increase in concentration of toxin to the stream, want to see the sawmill operation remain in the area.

Te Mania stream runs through Anne Billing's property. She supports the Ngai Tamawhariua's stance and is concerned about the state of New Zealand waterways and the significant difference between water quality in the 80s and now.

" In the stream through our property there are tuna, koura and numerous native fish. It saddens me that further downstream this eco system is not being respected.

"Current and future generations have a right to be able to harvest safe kai moana."

Katikati Taiao instigator Jenny Hobbs said she takes community responsibility to care for and protect the taiao [natural world] from degradation to leave a healthy and robust legacy for future generations very seriously.

"I do not think it is acceptable, in this day and age, to discharge industrial waste into the environment under any circumstances, but most especially not into the freshwater or marine environment."

Mrs Hobbs said in 25 years a once thriving marine ecosystem is now struggling to support marine life.

"This must be addressed with bold leadership and policy, to stop ecotoxins and sediment.

"Everyone I have spoken to about this issue wants to support mill to prosper in Katikati by embracing best practice and sustainable policies and procedures resulting in a win-win-win for the people, the environment and the company."

Supporting the iwi's objection, fourth generation descendant of Northern Ireland migrants to George Vesey Stewart's Ulster plantation in Katikati, Anne Henry said ecological systems must be treated with careful thought, especially governing bodies which communities have trusted to improve current and future environmental concerns.

"My concern is the generational degradation of Tauranga Moana."