Just about everything — including the name — must be changed for the mangrove management bill Thames-Coromandel and Hauraki councils to become law, and it should apply only to Whangamatā harbour.
This is the recommendation of a Government select committee in response to "extensive concerns" by submitters. The Governance and Administration Committee said that as proposed in the joint councils' bill, mangrove management would not have had to comply with any other legislation — including health and safety and Treaty legislation.
Instead it has resulted in a new layer of bureaucracy. The Minister of Local Government, in consultation with the Minister of Conservation, must approve the plan before it can be adopted by the council.
A sunset clause that allows legislation to be repealed after five years was a further blow to advocates of the bill to make it easier and less costly to remove mangroves throughout Coromandel and Hauraki districts.
"The submissions we received indicated that mangrove expansion and management has mostly become a problem in Whangamatā harbour," the committee says. "Therefore, we consider that the bill should only apply to Whangamatā harbour, which falls under the jurisdiction of Thames-Coromandel District Council."
The bill is in its second reading in Parliament. Significant changes include deleting four clauses proposed by the councils and adding six new ones.
Mangrove work would still require a committee to prepare a draft plan, however it must include specific representatives from regional council, at least one member with scientific or ecological expertise and at least one iwi representative as well as Department of Conservation involvement.
In an opposition submission by Nathan Kennedy and Ngāti Whanaunga, Dr Kennedy pointed to "anti-mangrove hysteria" based on decades-old recollections of white sand beaches by Whangamatā holidaymakers.
"These people, like the authors of this bill, naively believe that the wholesale removal of mangroves will result in harbour edges reverting to their previous state. But as we have seen after more than a decade of illegal removal of large areas of mangroves at Whangamatā, the areas are still mud. This is the case because the managing authorities have failed to address the huge volumes of sediment that travel down our waterways into the harbours.
"This, combined in several of the TCDC and Hauraki district harbours with historic and ongoing discharges of waste water into the harbours, has created the perfect conditions for mangrove proliferation.
"The other motivation of the people behind this bill is a perception that mangrove expansion will impact the values of their coastal properties. The line you are being fed by the authors of this bill — restoration of harbour amenity, access, recreation, or ecosystem values — is a con."
Whangamatā Harbour Care, which has 80 members seeking to remove mangroves "and other pest species" around the harbour, supported the bill in frustration at more than $1 million levied through Waikato Regional Council rates for a consent during a five-year period when no mangroves were removed.
"Since then the removal of mangroves has proceeded and the cost to our community is,on 2018 figures, $1.46 million spent," its submission said. "As part of this consent, Whangamatā Harbour Care were given permission by the [WRC] consent manager at the time to remove 2.33ha of mangroves, at a total cost to the community of sausages, bread and onions for the barbecue after each day's voluntary work.
"Although the work produced excellent results, the Regional Council have since steadfastly refused to allow Whangamatā Harbour Care to be further involved in mangrove removal, citing health and safety concerns.
"The rest of the removal of about one hectare plus clearance of the drains blocked by mangroves is planned to be completed in either August or April 2019 at a total estimated cost of $1.54 million."
What the Committee said: Restricting the bill to Whangamatā Harbour.
Recommended restricting the definition of "council" to mean only the Thames Coromandel District Council. Inserting a definition for "Whangamatā harbour" as defined in the mangrove management plan.
Considered the definition of "mangrove management activity" as weighted toward mangrove removal. Recommended including protection and maintenance of mangrove vegetation in the definition to make it more balanced.
Removing reference to both whole tree removal and maintenance dredging and specified that any mechanised removal of mangroves would only be allowed with mechanised hand-held tools.
Significant changes to restrict its application, align it with RMA processes, and respond to the extensive concerns expressed by submitters.
Considered mangrove management activity definition was "far too broad" and should be removed so important laws and regulations apply to mangrove management, for example health and safety legislation and Treaty legislation.
Sunset clause — The bill should only be a temporary measure for managing mangroves, and in the long-term the regional coastal plan should be responsible for managing mangroves.
The Minister of Local Government, in consultation with the Minister of Conservation, must approve any draft plan before it can be adopted by the council.