Kaipara Harbour's health has received a boost with the formal signing of a $200 million six-year plan to clean up New Zealand's biggest natural harbour.
"The programme is the first of its kind [in New Zealand] – a long-term, catchment-wide remediation initiative involving iwi, central and local government, landowners and wider community working together to restore the 602,000-hectare catchment," David Parker, Minister for the Environment, said.
Parker and Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage were at Waihāua Marae, Arapaoa, yesterday, about 60km south of Dargaville for the formal signing of a memorandum of understanding for the plan aimed at restoring the mauri of Kaipara Harbour.
About 200 people were at the Tinopai Peninsula event. Two other Kaipara marae also linked to it online – Otamatea marae at Batley and Waikaretu marae at Pouto.
The Kaipara Moana Remediation Programme MoU was signed between the Government, representatives of Ngā Maunga Whakahi o Kaipara, Te Roroa, Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whātua, Te Uri o Hau (collectively known as Kaipara Uri), Northland Regional Council (NRC) and Auckland Council.
Willie Wright, Integrated Kaipara Harbour Management Group (IKHMG) programme manager, said the remediation programme aimed, over the next 10 years, to halve the 700,000 tonnes of sediment flowing into the harbour each year.
Two thousand tonnes of sediment a day flow into the Kaipara.
Wright said there had long been concerns with the harbour's quality, from tangata whenua ancestors of as long as 140 years ago through until today.
The Waihāua Marae event was a milestone in the work of many.
"We have worked together for a long time to get to where we are today," Wright said.
Central government in July announced $100m funding towards the project. The balance is to come from councils and landowners.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff was among MoU signatories at Arapaoa.
He said the central government funding would enable those around the Kaipara to build a new future for their children and grandchildren.
Kaipara Mayor Dr Jason Smith said the event marked a huge achievement.
"In 160 years the mahi we are signing today will still resonate," Smith said.
"What's happening here today is a very significant moment."
Tame Te Rangi, Kaipara Moana negotiations reference group chair, said the formal signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was a significant milestone in already long-running work aimed at restoring the harbour.
Te Rangi was today elected chair of the new Kaipara Moana remediation joint committee which has been set up to helm bringing remediation plans to life.
The Kaipara Harbour restoration programme will be the biggest of its type in New Zealand.
There are about 1500 farms in the Kaipara Harbour catchment which straddles Auckland Council and NRC.
About two thirds of these farms are in Northland, and the other third are in Auckland.
Eight thousand kilometres of waterways flow into Kaipara Harbour through these farms.
"As the programme proceeds, the [Kaipara Moana remediation joint] committee will need to ensure the Crown contribution [to the programme] is matched by funding from other sources," Jonathan Gibbard, Northland Regional Council group manager environmental services, said.
"For the first six years of the programme, where Crown funding is presently available, this means an additional $100m will need to be secured from ratepayers [through councils] and landowners, and potentially sector groups and other partnerships."
The harbour is New Zealand's biggest estuary harbour with more than 3000km of shoreline and covering 950sq km at high tide.
Major work will be done on farms to reduce harbour sedimentation. This includes fencing, riparian planting, stabilising highly unstable land and wetland restoration.
The Kaipara Harbour was in August last year named as New Zealand's first at-risk catchment to receive Government backing to work alongside local communities and iwi to improve water quality.
"[Kaipara Moana] is of global ecological and biological significance and profound importance to Maori and recreational users," Parker said.
The first year's Government funding will be $12m.
NRC chairwoman Penny Smart was elected deputy-chairwoman of the remediation joint committee.
Gibbard said the Kaipara Moana Remediation programme was major.
"The Kaipara Moana remediation programme looks for work to be undertaken and a pace and scale that has not previously been delivered in New Zealand."
He said the programme faced potential issues getting enough skilled, accredited farm advisers to design and audit farm plans. It also faced a potential shortage of Matauranga
Māori specialists with an understanding of Kaipara's sites of significance. There could also be difficulty getting enough trees and plants, fence poles and skilled contractors to do the work
The programme objectives aim to boost tiaki taiao (natural capital), ōhanga (physical and financial capital), manaaki tangata (human capital) and tātai hononga (social capital).