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.