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Kaipara wins big after securing $100 million to restore harb

Posted at 1:00pm Monday 13 Jul, 2020

The Kaipara is the second largest harbour in the world.

The Kaipara Harbour was the big winner among 22 environmental projects announced last week, receiving $100 million of the $160 million fund.

It is hoped that the Kaipara restoration project, which involves planting and fencing of waterways that feed into the harbour will create 1000 jobs over 10 years.

It was chosen from a list of more than 300 projects submitted by regional councils.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the new green jobs would help to displace job losses from the tourism industry. The fund has been awarded to the Integrated Kaipara Harbour Management Group (IKHMG) which has been building a network of councils, iwi, landowners and landcare groups since 1996.

The $100m grant has turned the IKHMG from a small group of coordinators into an empire that will oversee a 1000-strong workforce responsible for 640,000ha.

The catchment spans from the Waitakere Ranges in West Auckland to southern Hokianga.

IKHMG chair Willie Wright says a whole industry will be created around building nurseries to supply plant seedlings for the restoration project, planting the seedlings and building fences.  Willie says plants cultivated at nurseries will be ‘eco-sourced' from natives already within the Kaipara catchment to maintain species that have always been there.

“I am really excited for the harbour. It has been degrading for 160 years since the area was deforested of kauri.”

Jobs will also be created from pest control, which will be required to prevent rabbits and possums from eating planted seedlings.

The IKHMG is in conversation with local avocado, watermelon and kumara industries to provide further employment for the harbour workforce.

“These jobs will last generations. It starts with a 10-year project, but it will take 100 years to fully restore the Kaipara.

“We will be working with iwi and local communities to upskill workers.”

The $100 million from the government will cover the first six years of the project, and then it is expected that councils will cover the remainder as part of their 10 year plans.

Willie says structures will be put in place to ensure the project is accountable to both taxpayers and ratepayers.

“The money must get to the ground through the community, landcare groups, landowners, schools and mana whenua. It can't be swallowed up by bureaucracy,” he says.

Willie says in the 1960s, the Kaipara Harbour had thriving mussel and oyster beds, but they have been poisoned by sediment, which also pulls phosphate and nitrogen into the water. Lush seagrass meadows that provide a habitat for spawning snapper have also been strangled by invasive species such as funnel worm.

“The Kaipara was the refrigerator for local communities. We want our grandkids to be able to enjoy the harbour the way it was.”

He says the IKHMG is strongly opposed to the Dome Valley landfill and wants to develop a plan for how industry could fit in with plans for the Kaipara.

“Whether that liner of the tip lasts 150 years or 250 years, it still has the potential to be a massive pollutant.”

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