A $100 million fund to clean up the Kaipara Harbour has been welcomed by organisations from around what is the largest harbour in the Southern Hemisphere.
On Sunday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that 2000 jobs will be created over six years from pouring $162m into cleaning up waterways in the regions.
The largest part of the fund - $100m - will be to clean up the Kaipara Harbour and the money, and up to 300 jobs it will create, have been welcomed by the Kaipara Uri and councils.
It has been welcomed as a critical turning point by those championing the proposed scheme – the Uri (descendants) affiliated to Kaipara Moana, and the four councils around the harbour - Auckland, Kaipara and Whangārei District and Northland Regional councils.
A business case for government funding was made last October by Kaipara Uri through the Kaipara Moana Negotiations Reference Group (with representatives from Te Uri o Hau, Te Roroa, Ngā Maunga Whakahī o Kaipara, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, and Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whātua), and the local authorities with combined jurisdiction over the harbour and its catchment.
Tame Te Rangi, from the Kaipara Moana Negotiations Reference Group, said that at its heart the ambitious scheme aims to improve the health of the harbour by a partnership between mana whenua and councils, working with local communities including landowners and the farming sector, to halve sediment loss from the land.
Sediment, or eroded soil, is a "catch-all" pollutant that carries with it other contaminants. Programme partners say addressing sediment will offer a raft of benefits: improved freshwater quality, greater biodiversity, resilience from climate change, and carbon sequestration through tree-planting and wetland management.
NRC chairwoman Penny Smart said around 300 much-needed new jobs could be generated as the nation focuses on its collective recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
"It's estimated about 200 new jobs will be needed for direct work on farms – fencing, water reticulation of streams and wetlands, preparing and planting land, weeding, and hill country stabilisation. Another 100 jobs will be required in the rural sector for nurseries, fencing manufacture, and farm advisory services."
Kaipara District Council mayor Jason Smith said for the many communities and marae that sit next to the moana – who have witnessed the loss of taonga species, encroachment of mangrove forests and an overall decline in fisheries and shellfish over decades – the programme cannot start soon enough.
Willie Wright, from the Integrated Kaipara Harbour Management Group, said the same outcome of a healthy and productive moana is sought by everyone: "by iwi and hapū, by farmers, by our many landcare and community groups, by councils, by industry groups, and by the Government."
"We're on this journey together. Many have been working hard already to improve the environment as best they can, and with this newly-announced and very welcome government funding we can now do what we've collectively been wanting to do for years," says Wright said.
Councillor Phil Halse from the Whangārei District Council said the new funding removes some of the basic economic barriers that have prevented landowners, regional bodies, and marae and hapū from a large scale collective effort to remediate the health of the moana and its many streams and rivers.
''This is a significant step forward," Halse said.
Te Rangi said that for environmental remediation to be truly effective for the moana, it needs to be targeted and done at scale.
"While we tend to over-estimate what can be achieved in a year, we under-estimate what can be achieved in 10 years, which is why Government's contribution for the first six years of the 10-year remediation programme is so important."
Auckland mayor Phil Goff also welcomed the funding.
■ Kaipara Harbour is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere - at high tide the harbour covers 947 sq km and has more than 3000km of shoreline.