Boaties, marine industry urged to take keen interest

9 Mar 2017, 9:39 AM

Feedback is being sought on possible new rules to prevent the spread of marine pests, how to foot the bill for marine biosecurity and updates to Northland’s harbour safety rules.

Those issues are central to three important regional council documents, all of which will potentially impact on boaties and the marine industry in particular.

Chairman Bill Shepherd says from Saturday 18 March the council will be seeking feedback on its;

  • Annual activities and budgets (via its Annual Plan and Charging Policy)
  • How pests are managed  (through its Northland Regional Pest and Marine Pathway Management Plan)
  • Rules for keeping people safe on the water (via its Navigation Safety Bylaw).

“We’ve rolled all three into a single feedback process (which will run until Friday 21 April) to make it easier for submitters to have their say and strongly urge as many people as possible to take the opportunity to familiarise themselves with – and provide feedback on – these and other issues that may affect them.”

Chairman Shepherd says all three documents contain changes that are likely to be of specific interest to boaties and the marine industry.  They were officially approved for release later this month by councillors at a full council meeting in Whangarei yesterday.

He says the biggest suggested change to council’s existing pest plan is the addition of a Marine Pathway Plan, which has rules limiting hull fouling when vessels move to a new harbour or offshore island.

“Rules targeting the way marine pests are spread gives us a much more proactive and cost-effective approach; it’ll mean that instead of simply responding to arrivals we can actively prevent them.” 

Implementation of the pathways plan would be done largely via the council’s existing marine biosecurity hull-checks programme.

Chairman Shepherd says the council’s wider programme to stop the spread of marine pests has expanded rapidly over the last five years and it’s now weighing up the fairest way to pay for this.

“The reality is that movement of hull-fouled boats is the main way marine pests are spread, so boats are the core focus of our marine biosecurity work.”

“While nothing is set in stone at this stage – and I really can’t stress that point hard enough – we’re also seriously considering whether a boat-focussed, user-pays type charge might be a fairer option to pay for it.”

Chairman Shepherd says similarly, while it has served the region well over the past five years, the council’s Navigation Safety Bylaw also needs to be updated, partially to ensure better alignment with rules in place in the north’s nearest neighbour, Auckland.

“Again though, these issues I’ve highlighted are just some of those being consulted on.”

He says in a bid to ensure as many people as possible are aware of the full range of topics, initiatives and potential changes, the council is producing a special eight-page edition of its Regional Report newsletter.  The newsletter will be delivered to more than 60,000 properties region wide over the next few weeks.

The council also plans to hold several drop-in sessions – at Mangonui, Waitangi and Whangarei – where councillors and council staff will be available to talk to people about anything proposed.

All relevant documents – and a comprehensive range of supporting information – will also be available from Saturday 18 March on the council’s website via:

Chairman Shepherd stresses the council’s desire for feedback is genuine and greatly appreciated by councillors and staff alike.

“We need to ensure when we make our final decisions that we too are doing so from as an informed a position as possible and our communities’ views are really integral to this process.”