Championing the Manukau

Date: 01/05/2013

Jade Reidy - The Fringe - May 2013

For so long the plain Jane at a party of sparkling beauties, the Manukau has lately been getting some welcome attention. Two ‘suitors’ are championing the value of the country’s second largest harbour. The forum is made up of representatives from the nine local boards

that border the harbour, while the restoration society is a group of volunteer residents and others who use its waters, such as fishing and yacht clubs.
“The Manukau’s been mismanaged for 100 years,” says society president Jim Jackson. “There’s a generation’s worth of work to be done.”
Until the 1930s, Waikowhai Bay was a favoured picnic and bathing spot. Landfills, industries and the construction in 1960 of a wastewater treatment plant at Mangere rapidly polluted the harbour. While the wastewater ponds were decommissioned in 2003 and 13km of foreshore returned to its natural state, the harbour still lacks a management plan and has significant issues.
“We’ll get to you down the track, is the council’s current view,” says Neil Henderson, deputy chair of the Manukau Harbour Forum.
A marine spatial plan is being developed for the Hauraki Gulf, through the Unitary Plan process, but a similar one for the Manukau is further down the list. The forum is looking at ways to fast forward that process. Its inaugural meeting was held in May 2012 and a long-term vision for the harbour is being developed. The forum also exists to offer a cohesive response to problems that have multiple causes, such as removal of Pacific oysters and coastal erosion. It can tap into council resources for practical projects.
A new idea that’s captured the forum’s attention is to have the harbour declared a location of international importance for the migratory birds. Sandpipers, dotterels, godwits, amongst others, fly thousands of kilometres each year from the far north such as Alaska, Siberia and Mongolia, converging on the Manukau along with native birds to make the harbour one of the world’s most significant wading bird sanctuaries.
Jackson says that, while the focus on avian protection is valuable, the marine life of the harbour is often neglected because it’s less visible. The society is working with NIWA and universities on various issues from sediment to mangroves, using Raglan Harbour’s restoration as a model, and is looking to research ways that fish stocks could be improved, without preventing recreational or commercial fishing.
Both the forum and the society are keen to work with Maori as mana whenua and see more progress on recommendations in The Waitangi Tribunal’s Manukau Report of 1985. It found the Crown had failed to recognise Treaty rights to land and traditional seafood resources and had not provided the protection promised. Settlement documents are still pending.
One of the biggest concerns is Watercare’s plan to build a new 14km tunnel bringing combined stormwater and sewage from central and eastern suburbs to a huge holding tank at Mangere. This would mean twice the amount of treated water each day being released into the harbour, from 360 million litres to 720 million.
“Have you seen where the water discharges at Puketutu?” says Jim. “Already it looks like Huka Falls except it’s brown.”
While the Manukau has a long way to go before it becomes a must-see tourist destination, both advocacy groups are putting its potential on the council’s map.