Great Barrier's Environmental Strategy
and Planning Initiative
by Richard Somerville-Ryan
Why did we set up the Great Barrier Environmental Strategy and
Setting up a full committee to concentrate
on environmental issues was a major commitment for the Great Barrier
Local Board. There were four key reasons for this initiative. First it
recognizes that environmental issues are among the most important on the
Board’s agenda. Second, it ensures that the Board commits serious
dedicated time to these issues. Third, it ensures that the resources we
commit will not be done in an ad hoc or reactive way; and finally it
gives a greater level of local leadership to the environmental debate
that the Barrier attracts.
So, what have we achieved so far?
In spite of the grandiose title, a lot of
our work so far has been focused on projects, but we’ve gradually been
bringing these within a more long-term approach.
Tryphena Harbour Weed research.
We’ve set up an isotope analysis study to
try to determine the causes of this major problem. If it’s caused by
local pollution we can take action; if it’s a wider regional problem we
will have access to the relevant governing bodies to advocate on facts
Auckland City’s Heritage Fund is now
controlled by the Local Board. Past recipients have continued to receive
funding, and the board has also gone into the wider community to look
for projects on private land that will have a positive general
environmental impact. Most recently these have been targeted on riparian
planting in sensitive waterways.
Beach and Dune Restoration
At Kaitoke we achieved funding for an
infrastructure project (preventing erosion at the Claris airfield) and
at the same time enhanced the dune area of one of the most sensitive
beaches in the country. Beach restoration is frustrating — one storm can
destroy six years’ work, but the alternative is not attractive — no
beach and no airfield.
Kaitoke Fire Restoration
The fire was a major crisis, but has
presented us with a great opportunity. The ESP committee took the lead
in bringing the Dept. of Conservation and the Council together to work
on a long-term restoration and enhancement programme in this devastated
Black Petrel Research
The Board committed funding to aid in
Black Petrel Research. The allocation will be made for GPS and depth
assessment equipment in the coming summer research season.
Predator and Pest Control
We would all like to get rid of every rat,
feral cat, and every rabbit from the island. And beyond that point of
agreement, debate begins and the harmony breaks down; our challenge is
whether and how we can achieve that in a way which is acceptable to the
island community. We’re now working up proposals to bring the community
into a broader pest management project. The committee has also decided
to fund a trial of the new “Spitfire” rat control technology. The Board
has increased funding to predator control at entry points to the island
– the wharves and airfields, and is extending these measures wider to
private and informal entry points. We are also funding increased rabbit
control measures, and are monitoring the kauri die-back initiatives
being coordinated by DOC.
Strategy and Planning
Two large ‘strategic issues’ got the
committee off to a challenging start: Marine Protection and
Environmental Consultation for the Island. But, other large strategic
issues are taking considerable thought and time, including Waste
Minimisation and Regional Funding proposals.
Marine Protection and Planning
The last proposals for setting up a large
marine reserve on the North-East coast of the Barrier were a pretty good
example of how not to get an environmental project across the line in
our community. We agreed any new initiative had to be locally-driven,
open to wide public consultation and very carefully thought through. We
weren’t given a lot of time to ponder. Auckland Council decided it
needed to prepare a Marine Spatial Plan. We brought representatives of
Ngati Rehua onto the working party to guide this process, and they will
be a critical part of our deliberations. For us the current Marine
Protection consultation exercise is a two-fold opportunity. First we
need to know what our community wants in the way of enhanced marine
protection; what it will support, and what mechanisms will work. Second,
as part of a wider advocacy role, our board reps will have a strong
mandate when they go into discussions on any regional plan marine
Environmental Consultation The GBICT has
made its views known very strongly. There’s wide agreement on general
issues on the committee, and the positions are not markedly different
from the trust’s. However, the board has to battle for every dollar it
gets, and very general proposals are usually the first to be chopped
when we are instructed to get our budget down to a ‘fiscal envelope’.
We’re still trying, and have had several budgetary planning and scoping
meetings, so this is really work and debate in progress.
Regional versus Local Funding Our view is
that the island’s environmental issues are too big to have to rely on
even the current generous level of local funding. We have fewer than
1500 ratepayers. DOC’s resources are nationally constrained and
regionally stretched; we have a unique environment with many iconic,
rare and endangered species, and we have a lot of regional understanding
and empathy. We need access to a larger pool of regional funding for
important local projects.
From the start of its term the Board has
been working on waste minimization. There are two driving principles.
First, this is a matter of environmental good practice, and second we
want to extend the life of the Claris landfill.
I think establishing the committee was the right move. The public
response to the marine protection consultation process suggests our
community wants the opportunity to participate in focused initiatives,
and the committee has provided the focus and forum for that.