Over 1000 members of the public made a submission opposing the Mangroves Management Bill via the Forest & Bird website, before the consultation period for the controversial law change closed on Friday night.
"People are worried about the consequences of such a reckless and badly drafted law change,” says Forest & Bird regional manager Dr Rebecca Stirnemann.
“They understand the important role our mangroves play in protecting us from coastal erosion and storms, trapping pollutants, and providing habitat for native birds and fish."
Thames-Coromandel District Council and Hauraki District Council are seeking to be able to remove mangroves without a resource consent. Mangrove removal is currently overseen by regional councils.
“Of particular concern is a clause stating that a council does not have to comply with any other law when clearing mangroves, unless that other law expressly overrides the new Act,” says Forest & Bird lawyer Sally Gepp.
When asked by Forest & Bird exactly which laws would override the proposed Mangroves Act, Thames-Coromandel District Councils’ legal officer confirmed on Friday that, “there is currently no such list of legislation.”
“This confirms our analysis that mangrove clearance carried out in these districts would be exempt from the Crimes Act, the Health and Safety at Work Act, the Wildlife Act, the Employment Relations Act, the Foreshore and Seabed Act, the Privacy Act, the Official Information Act, and so on,” says Ms Gepp.
“What would happen if there was a diesel or toxic chemical spill in our coastal waters, or a contractor was seriously injured while using machinery?”
“Who would be held accountable if large scale mangroves removal resulted in coastal communities becoming inundated in the next major storm?” asks Ms Gepp.
“The council is clearly trying to cut costs by cutting corners, without paying heed to the dire consequences this could have for local communities, and the environment,” says Dr Stirnemann.
Forest & Bird has also put in a detailed submission that outlines the Bill’s many flaws.
The summary of the submission states, “The Bill will not sustainably manage mangroves or provide for integrated management of the coast. It is incompatible with New Zealand’s international obligations for wetlands, and overrides key environmental and human safety-focused legislation. It is poorly drafted, lacks appropriate mechanisms such as compliance monitoring and enforcement procedures and sets up direct legislative and policy conflicts.”