Marina dredging risks environment and human health

Plans to dredge Coromandel Harbour for a new marina could cause damage to the coastal environment and release toxic metals that present a risk to human health, says Forest & Bird.

The Thames Coromandel District Council (TCDC) recently sent a survey to Coromandel residents asking whether they would purchase a berth if a marina were constructed in the Coromandel Harbour.

But a proposal to dredge a marina in Coromandel Harbour was declined 17 years ago when it failed numerous environmental tests in national legislation, including in the Resource Management Act and New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement.

“The new proposal doesn’t define a specific site and size for a marina, but there is no point pursuing the same plans that a review committee rejected in 2000,” says Forest & Bird’s Central North Island Regional Manager, Dr Rebecca Stirnemann.

“It’s worrying that the TCDC is asking people to buy into the scheme when the public hasn’t been advised about the environmental risks of constructing a marina that could involve significant dredging,” says Dr Stirnemann.

Since the marina proposal was rejected in February 2000, the TCDC has commissioned two scientific reports (by consultants Aurecon and Pattle Delamore Partners), which both found significant levels of toxic heavy metals in the seabed of Coromandel Harbour.

“Since the last application, we have learned a lot more about heavy metals in the Coromandel seabed, including mercury and arsenic.”

“Dredging in the harbour would be dangerous for the marine environment and for people who eat fish and shellfish from the harbour, and would also threaten a booming aquaculture industry.”

The timing of the public survey coincides with TCDC seeking public comment on its Draft Coastal Management Strategy.

“We like the concepts in the Draft Coastal Management Strategy, but it seems bizarre that TCDC is seeking to kick off a marina-building project that could potentially totally undermine that Strategy,” says Dr Stirnemann.

“TCDC needs to clarify exactly what is being proposed and ensure that human and ecosystem health are preserved in the harbour.”