Council set netting decision slammed as ‘dangerous’ and ‘irresponsible’
Albany Ward councillors John Watson and Wayne Walker have labelled the Auckland Council’s Regulatory and Bylaws committee decision today to open up Arkles Bay to set netting for 6 months of the year as ‘irresponsible” and ‘dangerous’.
Arkles Bay is one of the Hibiscus Coast’s most popular and safest family beaches. It is used year round by the public for a variety of activities – swimming, kayaking, wind surfing, sailing, general boating, walking dogs and triathlon training. It is also visited frequently by pods of dolphins.
For five years from 2002-2007 Arkles Bay was the prime target for a set netting gang that conducted a quasi-commercial operation. This was because Arkles Bay is next to the Okura Marine Reserve.
“Large stocks of fish were plundered on a daily basis and local people intimidated and abused,” says John Watson.
“There were also numerous instances of swimmers being caught in the nets and dolphins trapped and killed,” says John Watson “It was only by chance that human life was not lost.” (Women and children became entrapped in the nets on a number of occasions).
The evidence produced for the existing Arkles Bay set net ban revealed the set netting operation was year round, as much during winter months summer, at least every second day in the winter and in some winter months, on 20 plus days.
“The setting of up to five 60 metre long nets took over the entire bay,” says Cr Walker. “Doing anything in or on the water was basically impossible, either in summer or winter.” ( the useage of the beach remains high in this built up urban area with a population continuing to increase).
Both councillors say there was very strong anti-social behaviour by the set netters with many documented cases of threats, intimidation and frequent complaints to police and council.
“With the Arkles Bay set netting bylaw in 2007 the problem disappeared overnight. Over the last 8 years Arkles Bay has been trouble-free. The year round ban has been successful and totally supported by the community – now it’s gone, goodness knows what will happen,” says Wayne Walker.
Of the 667 public submissions made to the Regulatory and Bylaws feedback link from the community leading into today’s meeting, 666 supported the continuation of this year round ban. The Hibiscus and Bays local board, ward councillors and the wider community were all unanimous in their support for the year round ban to remain.
“I personally spoke to more than 500 local people at the Whangaparaoa Plaza and every single one was in support of a year round ban,” says Cr Walker.
“What we saw today showed a stunning disregard for the affected local community and their political representatives – it makes a mockery of co-governance and local voice,” says Hibiscus and Bays local board deputy chair Greg Sayers who presented to the meeting.
“Many people in the local community are now extremely anxious that the removal of the year round ban will inevitably open up Arkles Bay, once again, to the set netting gang who still operate in the local area and have been responsible for a series of complaints in other beaches on the Hibiscus Coast,” says John Watson.
“This committee was presented with overwhelming evidence relating to the threat to public safety and nuisance but ignored it all,” says Wayne Walker.
“The disregard for the genuine concerns of the Arkles Bay community is disturbing. It confirms the view this council is completely out of touch with local issues.”