of Ohau Bay, Wellington
Senior Statutory Biodiversity
Officer (Fish & Game)
Department of Conservation
Honorary Vice President
New Zealand Angling
and Casting Association
Agenda item for DOC
NGO meeting 20 October 2005 raising serious issues in relation to
the submission by the Department of Conservation to the Greater
Wellington Regional Council under the name of the Director General
of Conservation (Hugh Logan). This submission recommends
that Meridian Energy Ltd use Ohau Bay as the access point for their
West Wind turbine project. This recommendation supports the erection
of two breakwater walls in the bay and to mine the beach to provide
fill for a sheet pile causeway.
This recommendation by the
Director General of Conservation is based on the Department of Conservation
Wellington Conservatory acknowledging they have little knowledge
of the importance of Ohau Bay. The submission lacks research as
the migration of marine mammals around this coast has been described
by DOC scientists, so it follows that DOC should be aware that Ohau
Bay is a major feeding waypoint for marine mammals including the
endangered hector and maui dolphins. There is a core of experienced
commercial and recreational fishers who are aware that dolphins
and orcas can, at times, be seen feeding on eaglerays, warehou with
the smaller mammals feeding on yellow eyed mullet, piper and mackerel,
inside Ohau and Te Ikaamru Bays. These bait schools are rarely fished
by commercial fishers and no one is aware of recreational fishers
This agenda item is to serve
notice that the Director General is now placing the Department of
Conservation in breach of the basic principle of the Marine Mammals
Protection Act 1978. (MMPA )
The Director General is required
under the MMPA to "manage" the marine mammals and has previously
served notice that "manage" includes ensuring they have unimpeded
access to their traditional food source as he introduced a netting
ban on the west coast. The intentional destruction of yet another
of their food sources will have implications far in excess of that
of nets and will make it very difficult for these endangered mammals
The decision to support the
building of a causeway of sheet piling, using the existing beach
as back fill, and the added construction site will cause an uncontrollable
quantity of mud run off into the pristine waters of Ohau Bay. Combining
all these consequences will, when added together, destroy the food
chain of these baitfish schools - a chain that has scientific links
to dolphins and orcas. History is repeating itself. The inter
tidal ecosystem of the Marlborough Sounds was destroyed by fast
ferries and continues to be by other shipping travelling at speed,
resulting in the collapse of the blue cod fishery.
This decision will destroy
a major spawning ground for the commercial specie warehou that is
also a known food source for orcas. The projected run off of mud
and silt will smother the bay's food source for the large quantities
of paua in the bay to levels NIWA research has determined as unacceptable.
The barge trips and the upsetting of the currents with two breakwater
walls will, according to experienced commercial fishers, upset the
weed banks that butterfish are known to spawn. The seals that feed
on the butterfish and mackerel in Ohau Bay could be denied their
food source. This decision by the Department of Conservation has
been made two days after the launch of conservation week, which
had the theme "Everything is Connected" and indicates a serious
lack of research and marine knowledge by all DOC staff involved.
It is totally unacceptable
for the Department of Conservation to believe marine mammals could
locate another food source for the suggested two years that
construction takes. However, there is information that the breakwater
wall and causeway will remain in place "during the operation of
the wind farm, the berthing structure will be in used intermittently
to bring in new parts as necessary" (Assessment of Ecological Effects
of the Berthing Structures (AEEBS) page 3)). And further "if the
structures were to be left permanently in the Bay, it could be argued
that a relatively greater stable habitat has been created (albeit
artificial) and the breakwater was enhancing the total biodiversity"
(AEEBS page 25). This is an unbelievable statement from a marine
consultant and adds to the many other questionable statements and
descriptions of the findings by the marine consultant contracted
by Meridian to support the project. It is totally unacceptable for
the Department of Conservation to support such misinformation when
the applicant, describing the waters of Ohau Bay status that a "large
range of larval forms are present in the water column throughout
the year" (AEEBS) page 27.
The Department, in the reply
to my agenda item at the previous Department of Conservation Non
Government Organisation (DOC NGO) meeting, has described the lack
of the Departments knowledge of Ohau Bay by saying " there
appeared to be a lack of information about marine species that utilise
Ohau Bay". And "the effects on the marine environment
are likely to be short-term (temporary) and relatively minor".
Based on what information? The reply to my agenda item from
the Wellington Conservatory mentions "a temporary breakwater
wall" when in fact there will be two, which will block
the seaweed from performing its function on the beach and destroy
any marine larvae that comes into contact with it. The consultation
with the applicant as to how long the structures will be in place
is not consistent with what the Greater Wellington Regional Council
report to the joint hearing indicates, "The structures
may be in place for up to five years" (10.1.1). Did
the Wellington Conservatory ask for, or receive any advice from
the DOC marine scientists, as Ohau Bay has a unique visible marine
life hardly touched by man. Now we find from the GWRC "the
transects and video survey used in the ecological survey of Ohau
Bay do not appear to have extended as far as the section of reef
on which the breakwater wall will be partially located"
The Meridian environmental
report, somehow describes a beach of sand as having "low
biodiversity/ecological value and the exposed nature and the mobile
sediments of the Ohau Bay site mean that the ecological effects
of constructing the berthing structure and crane pier will be localised
and mostly temporary, and we considered insignificant"
(AEEBS page 24). The consultant report has many errors and lacks
research and this is proven by his statement "Because of
the remoteness and general lack of recreational interest use of
Ohau Bay, no beach profile information has been recorded",
Assessment of Physical Effects of Structures in Ohau Bay (APESOB
page 21). The assertion there is a lack of interest is not true
and it should be noted that neither the Wellington Recreational
Marine Fishers Association (WRMFA) or the Wellington Surfcasting
and Angling Club (WSAC) were consulted. I warned the Chair of the
DOC NGO meeting Ohau Bay was an important bay to marine life and
marine mammals, but was ignored. The WSAC has kept catch records
since it was formed almost fifty years ago that have been used by
Mfish and their club history book (Red Cod and a Conga Eel) describes
the value of this bay.
The decision by the Wellington
Conservatory and the Director General of the Department of Conservation
to destroy the pristine, virtually untouched by man waters of Ohau
Bay while acknowledging they have no knowledge of their value, is
unjustifiable environmental vandalism where as Oteranga Bay has
been an industrial bay since the installation of the power cables
with the remains of a wharf still in the water and a Government
imposed fishing ban to within two hundred metres from shore.
I do not accept that "what
may happen to Ohau or Oteranga Bay is not of national importance"
This was the reason given by the Chair of the DOC NGO
meeting on the 18th August 2005 as to why there was no discussion
allowed to comment on the reply from the Wellington Conservatory
to my agenda item requesting the Department minimise the impact
on the marine ecosystem of the region by not authorising the destruction
of Ohau Bay. The importance of a bay should be judged by its value
to marine life, not as an out of the way bay where few will see
or realise the destruction that is being carried out by man under
the authority of Government.
The recommendation to destroy
Ohau Bay could have been avoided with better communication by the
Wellington Conservatory, who continue to avoid any consultation
with recreational marine fishers and other NGOs. The lack of consultation
by both the Wellington Conservatory and the Department of Conservation
Head Office on marine matters has led to a number of marine environment
destroying recommendations. This decision to inform NGOs that protecting
the food source of dolphins is not in the national interest will
stand out above all others. Some of the others have included endorsing
the dumping of 100,000 tonnes of dredge waste into a number of the
submarine fresh water springs in Wellington Harbour, and endorsing
the stripping of sand from ten kilometres of beach and in doing
so causing the collapse of the ecosystem of two lakes, killing thousands
of native fish and eels. Then endorsing the sinking of a ship painted
in lead in an area proposed as a marine reserve, known for its seven
knot strong currents and sixteen metre swells. However, they all
pale into comparison to the intentional destruction of a bay known
to hold the food source of two protected marine specie that migrate
around the Wellington waters, last seen 6pm 24 September 2005 free
jumping in Wellington Harbour.
questions are therefore:
- Is the Department of Conservation prepared to amend their submission
to enable Ohau Bay to be retained in its pristine, unpolluted
by mud, rarely visited by man, natural state, known for two generations
to be a major feeding way point for migrating mammals?
- If not, is the Department of Conservation prepared to take itself
and the Director General to court for a breach of the Marine Mammals
Protection Act before or after we produce photos of orcas and
dolphins trying to access Ohau Bay?
- On the 26 August 2005 the Government, through the Minister of
Fisheries, announced the development of a Threat Management Plan
to manage the threats to Hectors and Maui dolphins. Can you confirm
that the Director General of Conservation is aware of this plan?
- Is the Director General prepared to acknowledge a mistake has
been made and it is not the intention of the Department of Conservation
to starve dolphins for five years?
- The Director General of Conservation has omitted to pass comment
on the proposed mining of Ohau Bay, "The berthing structure
would most likely be constructed from sheet piles and filled with
local material (ie beach gravels)" (APESOB) page 2.
Ohau Beach may have shingle further up the beach but the inter
tidal zone consists of silty sand. Has the Department of Conservation
no knowledge of the value of sand to the inter tidal marine ecosystems
found on any beach in New Zealand? Is it then acceptable to mine
the beach after every big sea has washed the fill out of this
- Is it also the Department of Conservation's intention, by recommending
Ohau Bay as the turbine landing area, to gain improved access
to the Bay and the coast south of Ohau Point so as to give paua
poaches and beach ecosystem strippers better access in the future?
- The Director General must be aware that there is planned another
sixty wind turbines in Long Gully, has the Department of Conservation
decided where the access for this project should be? Would it
be true the most central and logical location would be Oteranga
- The belief by the Department of Conservation that the stream
running into Oteranga Bay is of greater national importance than
hector and maui dolphins defies logic. Is the Director aware that
the application makes it clear the natural character of this stream
will be lost? Protecting a stream because it has "high
native fish values" ( DOC submission )
is a poorly researched belief. Recent Otago University
science has proved native fish travel in and out of the sea throughout
their lives and a native freshwater fish seen today could travel
out to sea in the next flood remaining in the freshwater layer
until finding another stream. This stream, the Department
of Conservation is so worried about will have its springs buried,
catchment filled with the estimated one point seven million cubic
meters of dirt and an estimated fifteen hundred meters of bends
converted into a three hundred and fifty metre quarried rip rap
ditch. The increase in water velocity at times of flood will make
the stream's lower reaches unrecognisable in any event. Is the
Department of Conservation really putting such a stream ahead
of the protection of dolphins, orcas and seals?
- The support the Department of Conservation has given to Meridian
Westwind plan to industrialise yet another bay on the Wellington
coast completely contradicts the vision presented by DOC in the
New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy 2000 ( NZBDS) called "Our
Chance to turn the tide". The draft NZBDS "outlines
six key areas for action, including - better managing the marine
environment, improving assessment and management of endangered
species, better government action and more community participation".
Has Government's and the Department of Conservation
created another vision that eliminates dolphins from being managed
as endangered species?
to the agenda item
This recommendation to build
structures in Ohau Bay will deny orcas and dolphins, including the
severely endangered Maui and Hector dolphins, their historic and
traditional access to the baitfish that school up in Ohau Bay. These
schools consist of yellow eyed mullet, piper and mackerel that gather
in Ohau Bay to feed on the sand hoppers that breed in the beach
cast seaweed in the summer months. At times eaglerays and dolphins
including baby orcas can be seen driving the baitfish into the shallows.
The eaglerays that feed off the baitfish will be denied a food source
and in turn orcas will also be denied another known food source.
Warehou and blue cod and a number of other marine specie are known
scientifically to spawn in this silty sand and to destroy it will
deny them their traditional spawning grounds in Ohau Bay. This is
another of the thirty five marine areas of importance that I identified
as being completely missing from the New Zealand Coastal Policy
Statement which DOC should be addressing through better consultation.
Orcas are known to feed off the warehou schools as they migrate
around our coast and destroying the warehou spawning ground in Ohau
Bay will impact on orcas in the future.
I can see no difference between
nets and building two breakwater walls that will prevent the described
"vast quantities of drift-algae that are washed into
the bay (Ohau), which are then covered by the very mobile beach
sediments, where they decompose in low oxygen conditions "
AEEBS page 8. "Beneath the decomposing algae large numbers
of amphipods and isopods were present (Lysianassid and Phoxocephalid
specimens were identified)". These are what we call sand
hoppers and are the beginning of the food chain. Breakwater
walls and nets both have the potential to kill dolphins, one, by
entanglement and the other by the Department of Conservation being
a party to starving them to death - everything is connected.
I have yet to meet anyone
in DOC or New Zealand that would intentionally set out to kill dolphins,
but it is through ignorance of the importance of the marine environment
that we are in the situation where we are losing our native dolphins.
The lack of marine knowledge described in the Department of Conservation's
submission has also been discussed by the Parliamentary Commissioner
for the Environment in December 1999. Then he published a document
called Setting Course for a Sustainable Future.
The Management of New Zealand's Marine Environment. In section
5, page 74, Adequacy of Environmental Information (5.2) " Different
kinds of information" he had this to say: --
in an information scarce environment like the marine environment,
informal information will often be a resource that marine managers
cannot afford to neglect or ignore."
In a later publication called
Missing Links the Commissioner in Section 1.3.1
page 16 had this to say describing, "What this report does
As we examined the relationship
between science and environmental policy it became clear that it
involved a broader range of issues that we could adequately address
in a single report for example:
- There are questions
about whether science used in some adversarial approaches to environmental
policy and decision making contribute to sustainability. For example
there is the potential for scientific evidence to be selectively
used in resources consent hearings for the purpose of gaining
or maintaining a particular interest or position, which could
be to the detriment of the broader principles of sustainability.
- There are issues around the roles and influence of science
and expert scientific witnesses in legal proceedings on environmental
I ask you to correct the
error of judgement made by the Wellington Conservatory and ask that
the Department of Conservation look further into the future and
endorse the views expressed in the agenda item presented to the
previous DOC NGO meeting, that a permanent causeway be built over
the beach at Oteranga Bay.
The protection of the stream
in Oteranga Bay is out of all proportion to how the Department is
allowing other streams in the region to be mismanaged.
Below are three examples:
- The two streams into the Karori Wild life Sanctuary will have
all life removed by DOC so that they can be restored without trout.
- The South Karori Stream has four discharges of raw sewage and
chemicals a year from the sewage plant five kilometres up stream,
endorsed by DOC.
- DOC removed the pines off crown land in the catchment of the
Wainuiomata River, without one mud run off dam being constructed
and lead battery waste was allowed to leach into the river from
a rubbish tip.