A decision made by Auckland Council’s Regulatory and Bylaws Committee today (October 13) will see the current year-round ban on set netting in Arkles Bay replaced with a summer-only ban that runs from November 1 to April 30 each year. The summer ban will be within 200 metres (seaward) of the Mean High Water Spring.
This decision flies in the face of a united front from the community, the Hibiscus & Bays Local Board and Councillors John Watson and Wayne Walker who sought a continuation of the year-round ban.
The year-round ban on set netting, introduced by the former Rodney District Council in March 2007, was unique in Auckland and it was this that appeared to make it problematic for Auckland Council’s “one size fits all” approach.
Council staff offered residents an opportunity for feedback prior to today’s committee meeting, via a website, promising that all such feedback would be put before Councillors for consideration. More than 660 submissions were received in the week after that address was publicised in Hibiscus Matters’ October 1 issue.
However, Albany Ward Councillor John Watson, who is on the Regulatory and Bylaws Committee, says those comments were not put before the committee.
“The impassioned and evidence-based views of the local community were ignored,” he says.
He says councillors who voted for a summer ban also ignored evidence that there was actually more set netting during the winter before the Rodney District Council ban was put in place.
Arkles Bay Community Committee representative Alan Sayers says the change means that a large-scale fishing operation, which used to cause problems including threatening behaviour, can again take place.
Arkles is adjacent to the Long Bay-Okura Marine Reserve and is targeted by set netters because fish are plentiful.
“We have evidence of truck loads of fish being taken from those nets each week, before the permanent ban was put in place,” Alan says.
However, he says that the biggest concern is the health and safety of beach users.
“It’s a very popular family beach, all year round. The population of Arkles Bay has doubled since the Rodney District Council put the permanent ban in place and there are people everyday here training for triathlons, and kayakers – many of them school children.
“This decision has been made absolutely contrary to the evidence provided and the community’s wishes. Council staff didn’t want to make Arkles Bay an exception, despite the fact that there are exceptional circumstances in our bay.”
Hibiscus & Bays Local Board chair Julia Parfitt and deputy chair Greg Sayers made a last ditch attempt to influence the committee, with a presentation in favour of a year-round ban, prior to the vote.
Greg Sayers says that the fact that this was also ignored shows that Auckland Council’s co-governance model is not working for local communities.
“The reason given for voting against a permanent ban was that Council want uniformity in the rules,” Greg says.
“That approach has failed Arkles Bay.”
The summer only ban is still to be ratified by Council’s Governing body in a few weeks. This is expected to be a rubber-stamping exercise, however Cr Watson says this will not be the end of the matter.
“The local community will not accept a return to the bad old days,” he says.
Council staff say they do not have the resources to police or monitor the ban, so the community will be left alone on this. There will be a reaction – some of the submitters were in tears – and there will be community resistance.”
Arkles Bay resident and Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater, who has removed set nets from outside his property, agrees.
“This winter we have had numerous dolphin and orca visits and I now await one to be killed in the set nets. When that happens the dead carcass should be deposited at the doorstep of the council officials who have ignored local concerns.”
How they voted
For a summer only ban: Calum Penrose, Denise Krum, Bill Cashmore, Linda Cooper, Alf Filipaina and George Wood.
For a permanent ban: John Watson, Sharon Stewart and Maori Statutory Board members Glen Wilcox and Karen Wilson