True test for Mahurangi Action is its plan for the next 40 years
In 1974, the town was planning to replace its appallingly inadequate riverside municipal septic tank.
Warkworth’s council was finally facing up to the need to treat its wastewater, after decades of wilful neglect of the issue, which, after heavy rainfall, routinely saw raw sewage flowing in town’s streets, and the river stained a disgusting reddish brown.
But rather than be universally applauded, strong concerns were raised that the wastewater treatment planned by the town council would be inadequate to protect neither the recreational use of the river, nor the marine farming use of the harbour downstream. It was the proximate issue that caused Mahurangi Action to be formed, as Friends of the Mahurangi, on 17 December that year.
The more fundamental driver, at least for its founding chairman, John Male, was the protection of the Mahurangi harbourscape from rampant coastal subdivision; he was also exercised by the proliferation of oyster farm leases, beyond a moratorium he claimed had been agreed to, during his single term as a Rodney County councillor.
But it was world peace and the avoidance of global thermonuclear war, rather than landscape or environmental issues that primarily drove John Male. He’d retired early from his role in New York with the United Nations to return to his birth country, after what must have seemed an eternity, including as it did, his service as a war poet, in World War II. John and others formed the New Zealand Foundation for Peace Studies, and he riled the Returned Services Association of a Warkworth Anzac Day parade, laying wreaths dedicated:
To the dead and dying on both sides of the Vietnam War
Four decades on, the threat of an all-out nuclear war has receded. Yet some 41 million civilian and military lives have been lost to the, mostly Third-World, wars waged since World War II—two and a half times as many as perished in the First World War. But with anthropogenic global warming beginning to bite, and today’s population of seven billion and gambling on surviving with little in the way organised grain storage—neoliberal dictates that the market obviates the need for physical silos—will likely suffer a far a greater death toll in the next 40 years than the estimated 142 million lives lost to war since 1914.
Given that wealthy countries can be expected to insulate all but the poorest of their populations from the worst of the privations of global warming, and given its temperate location, most New Zealanders will possibly fare better than many, born in the wrong place at the wrong time. But whereas John Male’s bête noire posed no guaranteed menace to the Mahurangi, warming will wreak havoc on the harbour’s hillsides, as extreme rainfall events come both more extreme, and more frequent, and as sea-level rise gnaws into its all too tender coastline.
It behoves Mahurangi Action, in its 41st year, to begin drafting a 40-year plan, with emphasis on how the catchment can be rendered more resilient, to resist the stronger storms and ever-higher king tides that are the harbour’s, and humanity’s now-inescapable future.
But such planning can be a joyous business, and can emphasise the wondrous possibilities of a landscape crisscrossed with walking trails, and graced with streams and wetlands cloaked, once again, in indigenous forest and ringing with birdsong…
…and a harbour with an ever-healthier resident snapper population, and mullet, and flounder.
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Mahurangi Action milestones mark some significant achievements
Updated 6 November 2018
- Founded, as Friends of the Mahurangi
- Tribunal recommends Warkworth wastewater be excluded from the Mahurangi River
- Revived the Mahurangi Regatta
- Supported Mahurangi West-led campaign that saw off plans to build a road to Te Muri and park up to 2000 cars behind its beach
- Conducted poll on aspirations for Mahurangi in 25 years
- Publication of Dr Ronald Locker’s 416-page Jade River : A History of the Mahurangi
- Successful High Court defence of the public’s entitlement to access Jamieson Bay
- Revival of the Mahurangi Regatta Prize-Giving Dance
- Leading role in supporting Auckland Regional Council’s Mahurangi Action Plan
- Mahurangi Magazine goes online
- Establishment of first scientifically designed trials demonstrating that forestry-style nursery methods could slash the cost of raising indigenous plants
- Leading role in developing Mahurangi Action Plan: A strategic plan for the catchment 2010–2030
- With property holder, establishment of the Mahurangi Farm-Forestry Trail
- Warkworth Sediment Improvements Pilot Phase I
- Preservation of car-free Te Muri, forever
- Culmination of 42-year bid to see council commitment to exclude Warkworth wastewater from the Mahurangi river and harbour
- First Mahurangi Regatta held with new, long-term principal sponsor, Teak Construction
- Submitted only proposal—for two local boards to replace the current Rodney Local Board—deemed a reasonably practicable option to Auckland’s governance arrangements
- Inaugurated, with One Warkworth and supported by Mahurangi Matters, the Warkworth Town Hall Talks
- Initiated, with philanthropist member, Mahurangi-based green-lipped mussel reef restoration research project
- Initiated, with the Mahurangi River Restoration Trust, ‘Up the Mahu!’