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Local Focus: Submissions sought on mangroves management

They're about the size of a ping-pong ball and these mangrove seeds are at the root of a big issue that's been spreading across the Whangamata harbour for more than a decade.

Local resident John McCombe has lived in the area for seven years and says the mangroves just keep appearing.

"The seed floats in the tide, and when it finds a spot that's suitable or fertile enough, it will stop and put down a root," he said. "Because these mature plants are so wonderful at reproducing millions of these little seed pods... as fast as you can pull them out they can potentially come back."

And that's why McCombe supports a legislation change to allow district councils to manage the mangroves.

Currently, the Waikato Regional Council is responsible for the management and removal of mangroves.

But soon the management of mangroves could be in local hands.

It all now hangs on the Mangroves Management Bill which is before central government.

"By doing a local bill to empower communities it means they can establish their own management plan if they want to," Mayor Sandra Goudie said.

"So this isn't about necessarily about taking out mangroves everywhere. This is only taking out mangroves where a community decides that they want to take some out."

Both the Hauraki and Thames Coromandel district councils support the bill which will give them full control of the mangroves.

Tracey May, Waikato Regional Council's science and strategy director said the regional council has taken a "neutral stance" on the district councils' intent to seek better mangrove management plans.

"If the bill is passed, we'll continue to work closely with both district councils to ensure the gains already made around mangrove management are maintained, and there is a strong connection between our catchment management work and responsibilities in the coastal marine area," May said.

The Waikato Regional Council has spent more than $2 million over the past 10 years, trying to control the mangroves in Tairua and Whangamata - but locals say it's been unsuccessful.

"The mangroves here and in a lot of areas are actually restricting the water flow when there's a flood.

"So the huge areas of mangroves are just blocking the exit of the water, consequently flooding part of the town. And the golf course has flooded I think 28 times last year through water being impeded," McCombe said.

Copnversely, marine ecologist and mangrove expert Dr Carolyn Lundquist says the current bill lacks guidance on just how to manage and remove these pesky plants.

"The bill implies that removing mangroves is going to recreate these pristine sandy beaches.

"It's more than just removing them. It's tackling [them] holistically within the estuary, looking at the sediment impacts coming in from land," Lundquist said.

"Quite often removal will happen and then 10 years [later] you come back and mangroves are back as nice forests all over again."

Dr Lindquist and her team have just published a mangrove management guide.

Public submissions on the Mangrove Management Bill are open until midnight Friday, February 23.

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- NZ Herald

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