Mangrove forests are an essential part of New Zealand’s coastal ecosystems, so we were alarmed by a bill which aimed to “facilitate the removal of mangrove vegetation”, a blatant bid to license environmental harm. Following submissions from our legal and conservation team, our local branches, and over 1,000 supporters, major improvements have been made to the Bill. One critical change is that Mangrove Management Plans created under the Bill must now give effect to the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement. Key NZCPS provisions include the protection of indigenous species, habitats, and natural defences from coastal hazards. Further, the Bill only relates to Whangamatā Harbour, rather than all of Thames-Coromandel and Hauraki districts. Thank you to everyone who submitted on behalf of our mangrove forests – they are safer today because of you.
While our preference would have been for the Select Committee to decline the Mangrove Management Bill altogether, the Select Committee has incorporated many aspects of Forest & Bird’s submission, which has changed the Bill’s focus, significantly extended its procedural requirements, and aligned it with coastal policy in ways that make it much less of a threat.
Key aspects of the regime in the Select Committee’s Bill are:
The lifetime of the Bill and any Plan created under it is only 5 years from commencement of the Act. So the Plan lifetime could only be 2-3 years given the time likely to be required to create it.
The scope of the Bill is limited to Whangamatā Harbour. The purpose of the Bill has been changed to a procedural one. It is now to “enable the development of a mangrove management plan”. And the purpose of a mangrove management plan is to “enable mangrove management activity…in order to restore, protect, and enhance amenity values and ecoystems that may be affected by mangrove management…” Previously, the purpose of the Act was to “facilitate the removal of mangrove vegetation”, so this is a significant change. Critically, the definition of mangrove management activity has also been changed, to include protection and maintenance of mangroves (in addition to removal). So overall, the purpose of the Bill and the plan is now about management in terms of protection, maintenance and clearance. The definition of mangrove management activity has also been limited to hand removal or mechanised removal using hand held tools, which will help put a handbrake on clearance activities.
The process for preparation of a mangrove management plan is much more comprehensive. First, the Council must establish a committee, which must include a Waikato Regional Council representative, and at least one member with scientific or ecological expertise, plus “sufficient iwi representation as agreed between the relevant iwi authorities and the TCDC”. The committee must also invite DOC to have a representative. The Committee prepares a draft Plan. In doing so, the Committee must undertake an assessment of environmental effects and consider where mangroves contribute to coastal ecosystems or protect the coast from erosion. The Committee must pre-consult with customary right holders. The draft Plan must be notified and then the special consultative procedure under s83 of the Local Government Act applies, which includes the opportunity for public submissions. The Committee then has to submit the draft Plan to the Minister of Local Government for approval, and she may approve, recommend changes or decline it. Council then adopts the Plan.
While the RMA does not apply to mangrove management activity authorised by the Act other than as specifically stated, and regional policy statement/regional plan provisions do not apply, the Plan must give effect to the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement. This is a critical change in the Bill. Key NZCPS provisions include:
- Policy 11: To protect indigenous biological diversity in the coastal environment:
- avoid adverse effects of activities on:
- indigenous taxa that are listed as threatened or at risk in the New Zealand Threat Classification System lists;
- taxa that are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources as threatened;
- indigenous ecosystems and vegetation types that are threatened in the coastal environment, or are naturally rare;
- habitats of indigenous species where the species are at the limit of their natural range, or are naturally rare;
- areas containing nationally significant examples of indigenous community types; and
- areas set aside for full or partial protection of indigenous biological diversity under other legislation; and
- avoid significant adverse effects and avoid, remedy or mitigate other adverse effects of activities on:
- areas of predominantly indigenous vegetation in the coastal environment;
- habitats in the coastal environment that are important during the vulnerable life stages of indigenous species;
- indigenous ecosystems and habitats that are only found in the coastal environment and are particularly vulnerable;
- to modification, including estuaries, lagoons, coastal wetlands, dunelands, intertidal zones, rocky reef systems, eelgrass and saltmarsh;
- habitats of indigenous species in the coastal environment that are important for recreational, commercial, traditional or cultural purposes;
- habitats, including areas and routes, important to migratory species; and
- ecological corridors, and areas important for linking or maintaining biological values identified under this policy.
- avoid adverse effects of activities on:
- Policy 13: To preserve the natural character of the coastal environment and to protect it from inappropriate subdivision, use, and development:
- avoid adverse effects of activities on natural character in areas of the coastal environment with outstanding natural character; and
- avoid significant adverse effects and avoid, remedy or mitigate other adverse effects of activities on natural character in all other areas of the coastal environment; including by:
- assessing the natural character of the coastal environment of the region or district, by mapping or otherwise identifying at least areas of high natural character; and
- ensuring that regional policy statements, and plans, identify areas where preserving natural character requires objectives, policies and rules, and include those provisions.
- Policy 26:
- Provide where appropriate for the protection, restoration or enhancement of natural defences that protect coastal land uses, or sites of significant biodiversity, cultural or historic heritage or geological value, from coastal hazards.
- Recognise that such natural defences include beaches, estuaries, wetlands, intertidal areas, coastal vegetation, dunes and barrier islands.