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Forest & Bird is urging the government to consider the toxic heavy metals that would be released from seabed dredging for the Coromandel Gateway Proposal.

The controversial project would involve the removal of 100,000 cubic metres of sediment from Coromandel Harbour to create a marina basin for twelve permanent berths, a terminal for a daily ferry from Auckland as well as apartments, car parks, and a boat stacker. Regional Development Minister Shane Jones announced this week that a feasibility study is being funded by the Provincial Growth Fund.

“Because of past mining activity, the seabed of Coromandel Harbour is one of the most contaminated of all the rural harbours in New Zealand”, says Forest & Bird branch member Mike Donoghue. 

“Fortunately, most of the mercury and arsenic is currently safely bound up in deep sediments, and it seems to be the height of folly to risk its release, especially given the importance of mussel and oyster farming to the local economy.”

"Forest & Bird insisted six months ago on a sampling programme to ascertain the level of heavy metal in the proposed marina basin and the 1.8 km dredged channel into the Harbour. We are still awaiting the results of that programme from developers."

The Thames-Coromandel District Council has commissioned studies of the heavy metal content in the seabed of Coromandel Harbour, all of which have concluded that the contamination levels for mercury and arsenic are high, in some cases exceeding international standards.

“The Coromandel Gateway proposal is similar to a marina proposal by the same developer that was rejected at the consent stage in 2001 because of its impacts on the Harbour margins, especially a nearby Area of Special Conservation Value,” says Mr Donoghue.

Mr Donoghue points out the ferry is currently operating from a perfectly adequate jetty a ten-minute bus ride from Coromandel Town.

“Given what we now know about the likely consequences and impacts of sea level rise and climate change, and the potential release of contaminants into the marine environment, this proposal is a totally inappropriate candidate for support from the Provincial Growth Fund.”
Notes to journalists:

  • A proposal to dredge a marina in Coromandel Harbour was declined 18 years ago when it failed numerous environmental tests in national legislation, including the Resource Management Act and the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement.
  • 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.
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