Whangarei Harbour protest

I went to a great protest in Whangarei on Friday about the state of the Whangarei Harbour. There were 400 people at the protest according to the Northern Advocate report by Imran Ali. This is a pretty impressive turnout for Whangarei.

The demonstration was specifically focused on a consent application by the Whangarei District Council for emergency discharge permits of raw sewerage into the Harbour during heavy rainfall events. However, it was really broader than that as people are getting increasingly angry about the state of the Harbour and the lack of action by the District Council.

It was a very vocal crowd who were demanding the cleanup of the Habour. One of the speakers was Jiah Thomas, who won gold in the World Outrigger Championships. She trains on the Harbour and says it stinks.

The Medical Officer of Health for the Northland DHB Dr. Jonathan Jarman talked about the illness that the sewerage was causing around Northland. From memory he said that half of all Maori families in the North have a feed of shellfish once a fortnight which exposes them to sickness from the sewerage in the water. Shellfish can take a month to become safe after each sewerage spill and given that there were five this year (I think that’s what he said) it meant that shellfish beds were unsafe for a good part of the year.

This is increasingly important as people collect a feed when food becomes expensive and people budgets are tight.

One of the striking things about the demo was the partnership of Maori and Pakeha. Local hapu have claims over the harbour but Haydn Solomon of the Whangarei Alliance (of local hapu) spoke out clearly of the need to clean up the Harbour for everyone. This is from the Northern Advocate:

“The harbour belongs to everybody. While there are specific claims on behalf of Maori, they are for everybody,” Mr Solomon said.

“Our claims are not about ownership, but about restoring the health of the harbour for everybody to enjoy.”

He said if the claims were successful, no one would be excluded from the harbour.

“Our position is that, if the harbour is safe and healthy, then it will lead to more and better access for everybody. At the end of the day the basis for our claim for urgency is that the health of the harbour is at risk from pollution from the council’s sewerage system,” Mr Solomon said.

And local Pakeha were well represented too and Warren Slater spoke from Save Our Harbour.

The Mayor received quite a lot of flak. Afterwards the Council pulled the power on the concert that had be planned in an adjacent park.

27 Comments Posted

  1. Kudos, Russel for standing for your rights and joining this protest. And it’s good to hear that sportswomen such as Jiah Thomas was also speaking up for this green movement. Wouldn’t be really awesome if you sneak in a video or two so that we can catch the action on this blog 🙂

  2. “Our position is that, if the harbour is safe and healthy, then it will lead to more and better access for everybody. At the end of the day the basis for our claim for urgency is that the health of the harbour is at risk from pollution from the council’s sewerage system,” Mr Solomon said.
    It is a very valid argument! It will benefit everyone and with all the climate issues around the world everyone should do their bit.

  3. # greenfly Says:
    December 15th, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    > Way off topic but … just now I was moving some looms downstairs and I broke one. Must be the Luddite in me 🙂

    did you by any chance drop a shoe in it? If so, that would be sabotage (French for ‘shoeing’, meaning jamming a machine by putting a shoe in it) 🙂

  4. The group also presented a 5500 signature petition to the mayor – huge for a relatively small town.

    The need to clean up our harbours in Northland is very high – there are groups throughout coming together to make constructive proposals to the WDC and the FNDC.

    The research and costing that should have been done between the time of the original permit and this one is not being done by the paid staff but by concerned unpaid volunteers.

    We have a similar situation in Hokianga where the FNDC applied to renew the permit for the smelly, poorly-performing sewage ponds at Rawene. I was part of the bi-cultural group that proposed a better system back in the early 1980s. We did get an extra couple of ponds but the then Hokianga County Council said that since it was allowed to discharge effluent into water, that is what they would do. We made it clear then that they should look towards a land-based system 25 years hence. They didn’t.

    In the 7 or so working days between getting the notice and the engineer’s report (desk-based and shoddy) there were 135 objections to the renewal – most of these from groups and hapu, about half wishing to speak to their objections.

    We have (as it looks like Whangarei has too) a large group of people working on research, cultural health index, publicity (keeping everyone informed) and working with FNDC to come up with a better solution.

    This is of course not the only source of pollution in the harbour, just the trigger to make the community start to mobilise to clean up the harbour.

    It should be seen as a positive move on the part of a community, not a negative one.

    For communities whose livelihood depends on the visitor trade to a large extent, a clean harbour is not a luxury but a necessity – quite apart from the health of the community itself. Cost is a relative term.

  5. …and Piipipi,

    “I would imagine most green party voters would be happy with Russel supporting the local communities call to clean up their harbour.”

    Believe me, we all want pure water and a pristine environment. But then we also what a lot of other things, like high-paying jobs so we can buy healthcare, nutrition and education etc.

    So we have to make trade-offs. If we want to avoid the council having to spill raw sewage into the sea even as an emergency measure, then that must come at the cost of something else. What will that be? A hospital? A school? Or just leaving money in people’s pockets so they can buy better food, a safer car, a holiday, or beer and fags?

    The only people who can make those decisions are those who have to pay for it, and believe me an emergency sewage opening is not at the top of the list when you’re poor. So what to make of a wealthy politican swanning in for photo opportunities and issuing press releases about how he’s so concerned about the environment? Does his public environmental piety make him a saint, or does his refusal to acknowledge such trade-offs make him an opportunist and a fraud?

  6. Gerrit;Greenfly; Because they realize that I merely propose an alternative be looked at – no Great Oracles around here – but having had some dealings with the Northland Council, I was wondering why they would permit such a thing to happen in the first place.
    Take your pick of anwers by all means…

  7. Way off topic but … just now I was moving some looms downstairs and I broke one. Must be the Luddite in me 🙂

  8. Piipipi – there was a time in Britain where the powers that be had to chose between the water closet and the earth closet. The rest is history (what a crap decision). As to your second sentence, I think it’s the Chinese who have the little ‘viewing platform’ for the purpose of self analysis 🙂

  9. Yeah go the compost. What a valuable resource we are just expelling out to see. In Western Europe I understand this practise is pretty much completely banned. Ironic that clean green NZ is so far behind.

  10. Gerrit – yes, I was dumbstruck but didn’t want to get bogged down in the discussion.
    Disposal of human sewage into the ocean? That stinks.
    My solution is compost – pure and simple.

  11. Mark,

    the resultant lawsuits from the Ill (iwi ?) have made for a proper out-to-sea outlet being built.
    In the long run it’s cheaper.

    So instead of the sewerage run off going into he harbour, you suggest pumping it into Bream Bay is the better alternative?

    I suggest that is no alternative at all, just shifting the problem further out to sea (over the horizon, out of sight, so no longer a problem?).

    For those of us who fish in the bay it is not a good idea.

    Th only true solution is to build a fully self contained sewerage treatment plant (aka Mangere) that only delivers fresh clean water into the harbour.

    Something the councl will have to charge rate payers for.

    Thought Russel and greenfly would have been over Marks’ proposal like a rash.

  12. Russel

    Why are you so surprised about this “One of the striking things about the demo was the partnership of Maori and Pakeha”

    It is only separatists and treaty gravy train bludgers who have an vested interest in stirring up race relations in New Zealand, most Maori and non Maori get on very well and have no desire to dredge up irrelevant issues from the past for political and monetary gain.

  13. wat,

    The Green Party stands of a platform of “green” issues. This is a green issue. I would imagine most green party voters would be happy with Russel supporting the local communities call to clean up their harbour. The Greens see their constituents as people who want to look after others and the planet we depend on. I would suggest that most of the people at that protest would be covered by that definition.

    Furthermore, you imply that the huge majority that didn’t attend the protest support the local council. This does not logically follow. Just because people don’t attend a protest doesn’t meant that they oppose the reason for that protest. They didn’t voice a view in that forum. You could not even say that they were undecided. They might be working, busy looking after their family, sick etc. Yes, there are a lot of people who don’t see the point of protesting as they don’t think that it has any effect. There are probably more that have no strong opinion on the issue either through ignorance, apathy or just being to caught up in surviving. I would imagine there are even some people who don’t value our environment and fellow citizens enough to not crap on recreational, and food opportunities.

  14. So what you are saying wat, is that you completely object to Rodney Hide, an avowed agitator from a single issue lobbying group even smaller than the one Russel represents, swanning into any TLA with the intention of forcing changes in local spending policies? Have I read you right?

  15. kahikatea,

    – “it is perfectly logical for him to go to the protest to network with constituents and express his support for them.”

    But he’s not doing that, is he: He’s not supporting “the constituents,” he’s supporting a self-selected group of just 400. What about the huge majority that didn’t protest; people who perhaps agree that the council is making the correct spending trade-offs? Does Russel also support them? If not, then your justification falls to the ground.

    Only those paying the rates can decide what the spending priorities should be.

    How would you like it if an agitator from a single-issue lobbying group swanned into your town with the intention of forcing changes in local spending policies?

  16. Actually, scratch the poohless day idea. It’s just silly. People would just cheat by holding it in for a day, and enforcement would be a nightmare. Foodless days, on the other hand…

  17. # wat dabney Says:
    December 14th, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    > So, no, he’s not.

    I didn’t say he wasn’t a ratepayer up there. For all I know, Russel may own fifty investment properties in Whangarei, all leveraged against each other in some dodgy mortgage arrangement (though I should add that I have no reason to believe he does).

    My point was that, whether he has property there or not, it is perfectly logical for him to go to the protest to network with constituents and express his support for them.

  18. Yup, or maybe pooless days. Or maybe a TV campaign to encourage the residents to kill themselves. I hear Oliver Driver is available.

  19. So no problem with a special rates levy in Whangarei to deal with the situation.
    Based on the cost of Wellington’s Moa Point, a simple $2,000 per ratepayer for two years should do the job nicely 🙂

  20. # wat dabney Says:
    December 14th, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    > – “I went to a great protest in Whangarei.. ”

    > Are you a rate-payer there?

    some of the voters who elected him, and who he represents, are ratepayers there.

  21. Northland iwi have a long and successfull history of working well with newer kiwi migrants…everywhere raw sewage has been let loose like this – the resultant lawsuits from the Ill have made for a proper out-to-sea outlet being built.
    In the long run it’s cheaper.
    Is the Council simply trying to ‘pass the buck’ on who pays for this???

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