Central government funding is being sought to help reduce the environmental impact of 700,000 tonnes of sediment that flows into the Kaipara Harbour each year.
Auckland and Northland councils have joined forces with six iwi to prepare a business case for a programme of mitigation works that they hope will be submitted to Government in the coming weeks.
A hui of the Integrated Kaipara Harbour Management Group (IKHMG) in Warkworth on April 18 heard that $400 million worth of work was needed to reduce the run-off from land and streams, a sum that was impossible for catchment councils and landowners to find, in the short-term at least.
Auckland Council treaty settlement manager John Hutton, who is managing the bid strategy, said neither the profit levels per hectare on most farmland nor the rate take of any council was enough to fund the work needed to reduce sediment to a level where the vast harbour system could start to heal itself.
“It would take three to four decades and Kaipara Harbour doesn’t have three to four decades,” he said.
“Landowners can’t step up fast enough, and there’s simply not enough money. If you want to get serious, you need central government funding.”
The day before the IKHMG meeting, Minister for the Environment David Parker and Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage were given a boat tour of the harbour by business case collaborators from Auckland Council, Northland Regional Council, Kaipara District Council, Whangarei District Council and Kaipara Uri, the collective term for iwi around the harbour – Kaipara iwi Te Roroa, Te Uri o Hau, Ngā Maunga Whakahii o Kaipara, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei and Te Runanga o Ngāti Whātua.
“We were trying to show ministers how big Kaipara Harbour is and where the significant impacts are from sedimentation,” Mr Hutton said. “And there’s nothing like a half tide coming in from the Hoteo to show sediment.”
While he said it was always hard extracting large amounts of money from Government, he believed now was the best time to make a bid, as there was environmental change and action happening all around the harbour, from communities, landowners and councils, as well as solid environmental science on the problems and solutions in the Kaipara Harbour Sediment Mitigation Study published in early 2018. In addition, treaty settlement negotiations over the Kaipara Harbour were currently underway between the Crown and Kaipara Uri.
“But the business case is separate from that,” he said. “This is a broader effort to mobilise councils, iwi, communities, landowners and central government in a bigger project. It’s highly ambitious, but there are potential opportunities. It’s a work in progress, but we think we’ve got a chance here.”
Mr Hutton said if the business case was successful, he would hope to get funding in the 2020 Budget or, failing that, in 2021.