by Helen Martin
Rodney Local Board deputy chair Phelan Pirrie has announced that environmental funding planning for the next budget will focus on improving the health of the Kaipara Harbour. This initiative will add weight to projects already underway under the auspices of the Integrated Kaipara Harbour Management Group. “The deterioration of the harbour is not in dispute,” Phelan says. ”Studies have shown there are issues around sediment and nitrogen runoff into the harbour from all the tributaries. It’s very important as the spawning ground for snapper so if we continue to degrade the harbour up we could end up jeopardising the snapper fishery. If the fishery and oyster farming are to be properly managed then the harbour has to be managed really carefully and that includes riparian planting and fencing.”
The Board plan to set up a $250,000 grants fund, which will receive administration assistance from Auckland Council’s Healthy Waters team. The fund will be used to improve the waterways leading into the harbours at Mahurangi, Whangateau and the Kaipara. “The Healthy Waters team will assess the benefits of each application and we’ll be matching proposals dollar for dollar up to around $20,000 for private landowners, including farmers, something that hasn’t been done in the past,” Phelan explains. “Unless we sort out the tributaries we can do all we like and the harbour won’t change, so it needs to be a long-term project. I’m hoping that by getting industry groups like Fonterra and Federated Farmers to put money into it we can eventually boost it to a million-dollar fund and really make a difference.”
The new Local Board Plan goes out to consultation in June and July, when the Board will be looking to formalising this fund and increasing its value.