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Public meeting with Auckland Regional Council

Aquaculture Variation to the Proposed Auckland Regional Plan: Coastal

Western Firth of Thames and Kawakawa Bay Area

  1 May 2004


By:      Trish Rea and Kathy Walsh

Date:   10 May 2004

For:     option4, NZBGFC, NZRFC, NZACA and

            Kaiaua Citizens and Ratepayers Association.

Chair:   Bill Cauldrey , chairman of Kawakawa Bay Residents Association.

ARC Reps:  Bill Burrill, Alan Moore, James Fuller.

Public :      70 people

Venue :      Kawakawa Community Hall, Kawakawa

Duration :  2 hours



The Auckland Regional Council (ARC) may introduce Aquaculture Management Areas (zones where marine farming can be undertaken) to the Regional Coastal plan. This is in response to the requirement in the Resource Management (Aquaculture Moratorium) Act 2002 to investigate options for AMAs and in recognition that the existing regime in the coastal plan did not provide a strategic approach for the management of aquaculture in the region. The ARC state the Firth of Thames has some existing aquaculture areas and is an area of interest to the industry. The ARC has proposed changes and wants to consult with the community to gather their views on their proposal for Pakihi Island, the western Firth of Thames, Kawakawa Bay and existing marine farm areas.

The ARC attended two meetings, the first held on Saturday 24th April at Kaiaua, the second at Kawakawa Bay. The public were offered the opportunity to attend a two-hour open day discussion earlier in the day and a meeting in the afternoon including an ARC presentation and public discussion. At least 70 people attended the public meeting held in the afternoon of the 1st May. This was a good turnout for such a small community but they obviously felt it was worthwhile making the effort despite the inclement weather conditions.


Current situation

A consortium of marine farmers has lodged applications for more than 5,300 ha of marine farms from Matingarahi to Waharau and also at the southern end of Ponui Island and Pakihi Islands. There are currently nine 5ha blocks of marine farming on the western side of the Firth of Thames (FOT).

Wilsons Bay (AMA) marine farming zone on the eastern side is managed by Environment Waikato. This is an area of two blocks totalling 1000 hectares and is the largest block on the eastern side of the FOT. Over 500 hectares of smaller farms are established on the Coromandel (eastern) side and managed by the Ministry of Fisheries.

The Auckland region has been divided into four Aquaculture Management Areas (AMAs) including –

  • Variation 3 - Kaipara Harbour
  • Variation 4 – Mahurangi Harbour, Matakana River and Kawau Island
  • Variation 5 – Great Barrier Island
  • Variation 6 – Waiheke Island and Wairoa Bay (Clevedon)

Kawakawa Bay has been included as a study area in the Firth of Thames, at this point. The Council has not decided on whether to put an AMA in this area. Interest from industry is concentrated on the north east of Pakihi Island alongside the sandspit and two sites at the bottom of Ponui Island. The ARC needs to obtain more information on proposals from this area. ARC research to date indicates the effects on this area are not likely to be significant.



The public meetings form part of the preliminary consultation and ARC is planning another meeting with locals in late June or early July to update the community. Between May and July ARC will be meeting with tangata whenua and interest groups to discuss the proposal. ARC wants Council approval to any proposed variation by August. The variation will then be notified, public submissions will be called for and hearings will be held which will include joint hearings on variations 2 – 6.

The ARC will make a decision after the hearings. The decision can be challenged through the Environment Court if people object to the outcome. ARC expects this process to take several years. The Council recognise that marine farming is a contentious issue.

ARC has issued a comments form, which needs to be filled out, and returned to ARC no later than 4pm Monday 17th May 2004. Post to Aquaculture Variation to the Proposed Auckland Regional Plan: Coastal, Firth of Thames and wider area, Policy Development, Auckland Regional Council, Private Bag 92012, Auckland.



There was almost unanimous opposition to the ARC proposal for marine farming in the western FOT, Ponui and Pakihi Island and Kawakawa Bay areas from those present. Points raised during the meeting included –


  • Clevedon Coast Oysters have asked for 43.1ha for mussel spat catching at
    Pakihi Island, alongside the sandspit.
  • Moana Pacific have asked, through a submission on the Variations 2 – 6, for two caged fish farming sites at the southern end of Ponui Island.
  • Thames Mussels Limited has a notified resource consent application for two 500-hectare mussel spat catching areas at Waimango Point, Matingarahi on the western shores of the Firth.
  • A consortium, formed by applicants for approximately 6,000 ha of applications for mussel spat catching at Waimango Point, now want 5,300 for mussel farming.
  • All applications should be dealt with together i.e. Ponui, Waiheke, Pakihi, Kawakawa Bay, Thames, and FOT.
  • An existing marine farm in Wairoa Bay is creeping outside its lawful boundary, strong objection to the suggestion this and other similar existing farms are likely to receive approval under new scheme.
  • Existing marine farms in the Thames/ Coromandel and Great Barrier Island area under Fisheries Act control are not included in the ARC plan. These should be included so an overall marine farming area can be examined on a regional basis.
  • Council receives very little rental return from marine farmers for the area they use.


  • Objection to the lack of research into the exploding numbers of oysters in the Kawakawa Bay area and the Wairoa River, Clevedon.
  • Objection to lack of research into the effects marine farming has on local shellfish populations.
  • ARC were asked how much money had been spent on the Niwa research for this project, ARC suggested it was likely around $100,000.00 so far.
  • Locals who knew the area well did not consider Niwa research adequate.
  • A suggestion was put to ARC to ask for more money to get more in-depth research conducted.


  • Reference was made to Marlborough Sounds studies which demonstrate marine farming is damaging the environment
  • No environmental impact reports have been completed, only Niwa research and industry reports available.
  • Some areas of high conservation value in FOT area will be denigrated by more marine farming.
  • Locals feel it is their duty to protect the FOT environment, they are the 'kaitiaki' of the area for south Auckland residents.
  • Water quality is already an issue in the western FOT, many signs along the coast advising the public not to gather shellfish, questionable if farming of shellfish would be worthwhile in such an area.
  • Increasing population along the coastline is already having an impact on water quality.
  • DoC consider the Hauraki Gulf to be a key area for mammal breeding, ARC responded with statement that DoC do not consider marine farms to have a serious effect on mammals.
  • An environmental scientist expressed concern as the farm proposals would create a "wall" of farms across the Firth without considering the environmental impacts this would have, particularly on the wader bird and marine habitats and also the Ramsar site at Miranda. She also objected to the poor information being made available to the public.
  • Questionable value of aquaculture for the area versus tourism value, this area is advertised as the "Pacific Highway".


  • Serious implications on navigational safety as the proposed areas cover both sides of the FOT leaving a narrow channel to navigate through.
  • Pakihi Island provides safe passage from Ponui Island to the mainland in high winds, marine farms could pose a danger to this traffic seeking shelter.
  • Concern for other marine users – yachties, water skiers, those seeking anchorages. These people will have to move elsewhere, putting pressure on other areas.


  • Kahawai numbers are down around 80% in the past two years.
  • Concerns for snapper population as the FOT is a known snapper nursery area.
  • A commercial flounder fisherman expressed concerns for his livelihood if the marine farms impacted on the water quality further up the Firth towards Thames. Total catch currently is around 400 tonne of flounder per annum from FOT area.
  • Will displace money spent on boating into other areas of the region and into other activities.
  • Kawakawa Bay boat ramp is the third busiest boat ramp in the Auckland region. It doesn't make sense to have marine farming in such a busy area.


  • This process too rushed, ARC should take the time and spend money to ensure the outcome of this process is a sustainable environment capable of being enjoyed by future generations.
  • Suggestion was put to ARC to draft a proposal and return to the community for consultation on the draft document.
  • A resident read out a statement, which the majority of the locals supported. The statement was opposed to the ARC AMA proposal and the effects it would have, which would ultimately affect the next generation's ability to enjoy the area.



Very strong opinions were expressed objecting to the ARC's plan. Although a couple of industry representatives were identified at the meeting none spoke publicly in response to the ARC or local's concerns.

There are serious implications for the fishing sector as the FOT is a known nursery for snapper and possibly other species. Commercial fishing is a prohibited activity in and within 1000 metres of an AMA. Currently recreational fishing is allowed within an AMA however boat discharges are prohibited within 500 metres. There is no guarantee that recreational fishing within an AMA will not become a prohibited activity in the future.

Navigation is also of concern. The suggestion they would propose less buoys on the new farms could have safety implications and may not be the correct way to deal with the aesthetic issues relating to marine farming.

Water quality is already a major issue on this coastline, if marine farming is permitted and the farms fail because of poor conditions then the farms could be abandoned and locals are left with the mess.

This issue will be worth monitoring as it has major implications for those who use the area and enjoy the marine environment. Other regional councils are following a similar process so the outcome has national significance.



ARC will be accepting comments on their proposal up until 4pm Monday 17th May 2004. Post your feedback to Aquaculture Variation to the Proposed Auckland Regional Plan: Coastal, Firth of Thames and wider area, Policy Development, Auckland Regional Council, Private Bag 92012, Auckland.



ARC contacts: Alan Moore      09 366 2000       ext 7058

                     James Fuller     09 366 2000       ext 8126



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