A photograph of the original wharf, which fell into disrepair and was dismantled in the 1950s.
The Mangawhai Historic Wharf Trust has launched a stinging attack on opponents following a decision last month to deny resource consent to rebuild a historic wharf, formerly situated at the end of Moir Street.
Hearing commissioners, acting on behalf of the Northland Regional Council, accepted arguments presented by the Department of Conservation, Forest & Bird, the New Zealand Fairy Tern Charitable Trust and others that a reconstructed wharf would pose a threat to the critically endangered fairy tern.
In its decision, the commissioners said the wharf would encourage additional human activity and bring such activity significantly closer to an area of the harbour that is important to fairy tern foraging and reproductive success.
“The timing of any likely peak use of the wharf will be over the Christmas and New Year holiday period, which coincides with the most sensitive time for successful fairy tern breeding, making it very difficult to avoid or mitigate additional human disturbance in the area,” the commissioners wrote.
The commissioners concluded that the wharf proposal did not promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources and did not meet the requirements of the Resource Management Act.
But following the release of the decision, Mangawhai Historic Wharf Trust chair Colin Leach said there was no evidence presented at the hearing that increasing human activity on the harbour and foreshore over the last 20 years had affected the fairy tern population and its capacity to breed.
“It appears, then, that the commissioners gave speculation that it might do so greater weight than the interests and support of the community for the wharf,” he said.
“Successful foraging areas exist in other parts of the harbour with much higher levels of human activity than the area of the proposed wharf. Much of the evidence presented was contradictory and opinion rather than fact or science.”
Mr Leach thanked the community for their support for the project. This support had funded the bulk of the resource consent costs of over $120,000.
He said the trust, as a volunteer-driven charity, applied for relief from these costs and was “generously” given a refund of $896.
“It is hard to view this without a great deal of cynicism,” he said.
Mr Leach said the decision deprived the community of a much-needed amenity, which ironically would allow people to walk over the foreshore and water without interfering with bird life.
He added that central government recognised the benefits of the project and had committed $600,000 from its “shovel ready” infrastructure fund.
“With the resource consent refused, this money is now lost to the community,” he said.
The trust is keen to hear feedback from the community before deciding on its next steps, which could include an appeal to the Environment Court.
The original wharf was constructed in the 1880s and was used for shipping logs and kauri gum.