Northland Mooring Owners and Ratepayers, which began as a handful of frustrated Russell residents but has grown into a movement of yachtsmen and ratepayers from Mangonui to Whangārei, continues to staunchly oppose the Northland Regional Council's Marine Pest Management Plan.
Spokesman Klaus Kurz said the council was now in the process of putting "new wine in old bottles" with its "inconsistent" plan, which boat owners and ratepayers would pay for, incorrectly claiming that leisure boats were the main vectors for spreading marine pests, and predicting better results than had been achieved in the past.
Kurz, a marine biologist and former naval commander, said in ancient times wine was stored in leather flasks.
"When they were new they were little challenged, but they became brittle and useless over time," he said.
"This metaphor applies to the NRC's new plans, clearly showing what to expect when packaging their current practice in a new way, which makes it appear to be a superior method, particularly with the intention of making it attractive to the doubting, if not opposing, public.
"Should the bureaucrats succeed again, you can be sure that the old, flawed process will fail on an even larger scale, at much higher costs for ratepayers."
The Marine Pest Management Plan, he said, and its planned extension, was inconsistent with science, and ignored the Cawthron Institute's advice regarding how the Mediterranean fanworm spread.
In its report No. 2232, the largest independent science organisation in New Zealand, specialising in biosecurity, stated: 'Following introduction from overseas, most pests that establish in the NZ environment continue to spread domestically both by natural dispersal mechanisms (floating debris, tidal streams, ocean currents) - named first and foremost - and by anthropogenic vectors... As many species can be difficult to control in the marine environment, any new species that are introduced from overseas or from other regions within NZ are likely to become a permanent part of the marine biota.'
The institute's report No. 2479 stated: 'Effective management of marine pests after detection is often challenging and expensive, and any success is largely reliant on the species having limited natural dispersal potentiality, low fecundity, specific habitat requirements, conspicuous morphology and visible individuals.'
"Mediterranean fanworm fails to meet any of these criteria," he said.
"This and other crucial information for decision-making has been withheld from our councillors by council staff, for instance the facts that in 2010 MAF Biosecurity called off their own programme to rid New Zealand waters of Mediterranean fanworm because it was then already too widespread to eradicate. Elimination was also no longer feasible because the projected costs were simply not justified, and it would be extremely difficult to locate and remove the pests, using divers, from an area that is just over 10,000ha. By comparison, for instance, the area within the Bay of Islands comprises 26,000ha.
"Nevertheless, NRC is sticking to its MPMP, and intends to expand the mistakes made in other regions by employing the same methods, which did not provide MAF/Biosecurity NZ with any success many years ago."
The problem was compounded because boat haul-out facilities in the Bay of Islands, and elsewhere, that previously would have helped boaties to meet the NRC's "hypocritical" slogan 'Clean below, good to go!' had been progressively removed by the council. Since last year, the only heavy duty slipway at Ōpua was no longer available and the grid poles at Pomare Bay, in Russell, Mangonui and elsewhere had been demolished.
"Thus affected boat owners now have to sail their vessels to Whangārei to have them cleaned, and that, according to NRC's understanding, should increase the likelihood of spreading fanworm along the coasts, particularly if they stop overnight, say in Tutukaka, which is allegedly, and according to official information, fanworm-free at this stage. However, on other occasions, NRC's CEO admits the opposite," Kurz added.
"Does NRC really know what they are doing?
"The MPMP currently costs around $2.67 million per annum to administer. Under the new plan, the new wine in old bottles, for the Top of the North regions, costs are expected to increase to at least $4 million per year in the first five years. Therefore the NRC is looking at potential for 'exacerbators' - yes, that's how they actually dare to refer to ratepayers and boat owners, being the only ones who really try to protect the marine environment by antifouling their boats, thus ensuring out of their own pocket that New Zealand waters remain pest-free.
"The plan has been badly researched, badly thought out, and in its recent form is expensive but useless and a waste of ratepayers' money. It should be thoroughly revised before being used as a template for the Top of the North regional councils to implement this year.
"This should be considered when offering comments to the NRC's request for feedback in their so-called consultation of the public."
More information was available at www.russellcommonsense.com