Mahurangi Magazine’s draft plan submission
The Mahurangi Magazine agrees with the following priorities proposed in the draft Rodney Local Board Plan:
With one very specific exception, which is addressed in the next section, the Mahurangi Magazine generally supports the content of the draft Rodney Local Board Plan. This submission’s priority, however, is to emphasise just six draft plan items, ranked according to importance.
1 Mahurangi Action Plan
The Mahurangi Action Plan is a science-based plan of action prepared collaboratively by the Mahurangi’s councils, communities and stakeholders prior to the new regional governance arrangements taking effect.
The Mahurangi Magazine has been active in canvassing all aspects of the action plan, which enjoys widespread support, and includes the active involvement of local college students.
Mahurangi Action Plan: A Strategic Plan for the Catchment 2010–2030, which was formally adopted by both Auckland Regional Council and Rodney District Council, is a robust and holistic roadmap that is certain to serve is an exemplar for Auckland Council’s sustainable catchment programme.
The Mahurangi Action Plan should be included as a Key Project/Initiative line item, with the local board’s role being general advocacy, but funding and leading appropriate specific action plan line items.
2 Mahurangi Scenic Ridge Roads
Protection and enhancement of Mahurangi’s scenic ridge roads is the subject of three line items in the Mahurangi Action Plan (actions 22–24).
The importance of the scenic ridge roads to Dr Ronald Locker, particularly the Mahurangi West Road, was such that it was one of only two advocacies he permitted himself when writing Jade River : A History of the Mahurangi:
This road is a scenic asset in its own right. It is as important as the regional park it serves and should have about six lay-bys where visitors could safely drink in the scene. These would serve also to emphasise the values of the road.
Although these are strong words, it is highly likely that the vast majority of readers of Locker’s history, which has sold nearly 2000 copies, are in heartfelt agreement, and are impatient to see more than the one minimal lay-by created since the book’s publication.
3 Plan, programme and provide recreational walkways and bike trails
Included in the Mahurangi Action Plan are six actions (16, 19, 25, 44, 46 and 65) that enjoy robust support. A regionally important Mahurangi Coastal Trail is discussed in the final section.
4 Prepare a programme in conjunction with iwi and other relevant stakeholders for regular dredging of specific boat accesses
Mahurangi Action Plan action 20 reads:
Investigate options to improve navigation access of the Mahurangi River including access to Warkworth by water
Dredging of the Mahurangi River is a very widely canvassed need and enjoys extremely strong support. This is because the economic potential for Warkworth to host visiting boats is palpable.
5 Undertake environmental programmes in Rodney and fund community-led programmes
As detailed in 1. above, the Mahurangi Action Plan was prepared collaboratively by the councils and community. It contains 71 actions that range from community-led to council-led.
6 Maintain the existing rail network and enhance the northern rail corridor
The enormous popularity of the Otago Central Rail Trail has had the unfortunate effect of spawning a rash of enthusiasts who relish the possible demise of Auckland–Northland rail, in anticipation that it might similarly become a rail trail. This enthusiasm, while understandable, is ill informed. A far more economically wholesome alternative exists, but is better known in North America: Rail-with-trail.
The Rodney Local Board could play a pivotal role by leading and funding a feasibility study of the trail component of the 90-kilometre section of the Auckland–Northland line that snakes through its local board area between (just north of) Te Hana and (just north of) Waitakere Station.
Does not agree
The Mahurangi Magazine does not agree with the following priority proposed in the draft local board plan:
Construct the Pūhoi to Wellsford Highway with access at Pūhoi
Public support for the government’s plans for a new Pūhoi–Wellsford highway is weak.
July’s Herald–DigiPoll found that less than half those surveyed consider the planned new highway more important than Auckland Council’s planned City Rail Link. It is inappropriate for Rodney Local Board to advocate for a project that currently deeply divides the Rodney community.
In more than a year campaigning against the highway plan, the Mahurangi Magazine has received only one complaint. Meantime, the Mahurangi Bulletin, this publication’s predecessor, advocated a western bypass of Warkworth in January 2006. Such a bypass is part of the well-canvassed, affordable safety upgrade to the highway proposed by the Campaign for Better Transport and supported by the former regional council.
There are two urgent needs to be addressed: The aforementioned need to improve the safety of the highway between Pūhoi and Wellsford; and the implementation of low fossil fuel transport solutions. The cost-benefit of the planned new highway is low—Northland’s long-term economic development would derive far more benefit from a robust programme for rail-with-trail.
Other priorities the Mahurangi Magazine thinks should be added to the draft local board plan:
1 Open-Ground Indigenous Plants
Included in the Mahurangi Action Plan, but conflated with a rather too-specific action (6), is reference to the community-led open-ground indigenous plant project. This involves the use of forestry-style nursery practices to produce large quantities of indigenous plants at greatly reduced cost, and without the root circling that routinely compromises trees raised from pot or planter bag stock.
While the pioneering work with open-ground indigenous plants was done in the 1960s, the method was sidelined when the New Zealand Forest Service was disestablished, in 1987. The Mahurangi Action Plan is responsible, through a community initiative, in helping to kick-start the open-ground method for raising indigenous plants. Specifically, the Mahurangi hosts the first-ever establishment trials comparing open-ground with container-raised plants.
Because they provide much of the funding for the restoration planting, it behoves local bodies to ensure that cost-effectiveness and robustness of indigenous plants is included in funding criteria. Also, the trials, which have already demonstrated the value of open-ground plants, need to be further monitored and measured, and replicated.
Rodney Local Board has a role advocating for, and leading and funding aspects of, the open-ground project.
2 Mahurangi Coastal Trail
A glaring omission from the Mahurangi Action Plan was a line item addressing the Mahurangi Coastal Trail. This concept was first promoted by the Mahurangi West Residents and Ratepayers Association, in 1988, when it successfully advocated for walking access only for the regional park at Te Muri.
The Mahurangi Coastal Trail will link two of the region’s best-loved parks, and will put Sullivans Bay within easy walking distance of public transport at Waiwera.
Rodney Local Board has an important role advocating for, what will be, a nationally significant coastal trail.
The Google award -winning human-powered Shweeb, developed in Rotorua, deserves consideration. Initially, Shweeb could link Warkworth with the Wilson Cement Works, and ultimately, Warkworth with Mahurangi East.
The local board has a role investigating the potential for Shweeb applications in Rodney.
4 Updating the plan
The Mahurangi Action Plan is the first-ever officially recognised plan for the Mahurangi. The inadvertent omission of Mahurangi Coastal Trail, for which the editor of the Mahurangi Magazine bears prime responsibility, is a timely reminder that the plan, although robustly developed, is a starting point only and will need to be reviewed and updated from time to time:
Possible cost 2013–2014 $5000 Monitor and report on the performance and progress of the Mahurangi Action Plan
Possible cost 2014–2015 $25 000 Consultation and development of the revised Mahurangi Action Plan including 2015–2025 planting priorities