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A proposed law that would give two district councils the right to destroy coastal mangrove forests has met strong opposition from Forest & Bird, who say the Mangrove Management Bill is really a license for the two councils to destroy native habitats.

Thames-Coromandel District Council, with support from Hauraki District Council, has proposed a law change to exempt themselves from the Resource Management Act. The bill is so badly drafted it would also exempt the two councils from every other law in the country.

Forest & Bird will be presenting their submission to a select committee hearing today.

“Mangrove destruction would be taking place outside the law,” says Forest & Bird spokesperson Dr Rebecca Stirnemann.

A critical clause in the Bill would mean that any law not expressly over-riding the Mangroves Management Act wouldn’t apply to mangrove removal activities.

“This means that the Conservation Act, Wildlife Act, Hazardous Substances & New Organisms Act, Employment Relations Act and the Health and Safety at Work Act won’t apply to mangrove removal under the control of these councils,” says Dr Stirnemann.

“The Bill is also completely inadequate to manage coastal ecosystems. The purpose of the Bill is biased towards mangrove removal in favour of ‘amenity values’. It does not recognise the importance of mangroves as wetlands, habitat for native birds and fish, and in protecting our coastal communities from erosion and storm surges.”

“This Bill is about single-minded opposition to an important coastal habitat, not about rational, scientifically informed mangrove management,” says Dr Stirnemann. “Mangroves aren’t responsible for sandy beaches turning into muddy estuaries. Mangroves move into new areas when sediment flowing down rivers creates the right environment for them."

“Destroying the mangroves won’t bring back the beaches. If this Council actually cared about managing mangroves they would address the cause, not just take a chainsaw to the symptoms. This is last century thinking, which in an age of climate change is truly dangerous.”

“These two councils are ignoring basic science on the importance of these coastal forests. They have produced a badly written bill that gives them rights no other agency in the country has,” said Dr Stirnemann.

“If the Councils won’t withdraw the Bill, Parliamentarians should rightly give this embarrassing and incompetent bill the boot.”

What do other organisations say?

  • The Resource Management Law Association has echoed Forest & Bird’s concerns about the Bill’s exemption clause, questioning why it has fewer safeguards than the emergency legislation passed after the Canterbury and Kaikoura earthquakes.
  • A submission by Waikato University warns that mangrove clearance had left low-lying agricultural areas in the Firth of Thames more prone to flooding in recent storm events and has resulted in visible erosion of nearby salt marsh vegetation. Waikato University warns that “mangrove clearance will not halt mangrove expansion in estuarine environments since none of the causes for mangrove proliferation will be taken away.”
  • The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Sciences’ (NIWA) submission records that it has visited over 40 mangrove removal locations and states that mangrove removals are rarely successful at returning locations to historical ‘sandy’ beaches or restoring recreational access.
  • The Department of Conservation’s advice cautions that New Zealand is a signatory to an International Convention on Wetlands, and that the Bill appears to allow activities that are contrary to the Convention, both in relation to the Firth of Thames “Wetland of International Importance” and all other estuarine wetlands.
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