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Carter declines Whangamata Marina proposal

7 March 2006

Carter declines Whangamata Marina proposal

Conservation Minister Chris Carter has declined an application under the Resource Management Act for permits to construct a marina in Whangamata harbour.

"Having looked at the issues in this coastal development proposal, the way the Environment Court approached them, and the evidence, I am not satisfied that allowing use of the public's coastal marine area for this development would be appropriate," Mr Carter said.

"I am conscious that in making this decision I am going against a recommendation of the Environment Court, but the law requires the Minister of Conservation to exercise an overall judgement on certain coastal development matters that is distinct from that of the courts, and I have done so."

The Whangamata Marina Society applied to Mr Carter for two permits to build a 205 berth marina and car park in Whangamata Harbour.

One permit sought to use 4 hectares of the coastal marine zone to construct and operate the marina, and to dredge a marina basin and a channel across the harbour. The other permit sought to reclaim 1.4 hectares, and cover a salt marsh for development as a parking area.

Under the Resource Management Act, the Conservation Minister is the final decision-maker on restricted coastal activities in recognition of the public's ownership interest in the coastal marine area.

Mr Carter said he had serious concerns about aspects of the proposal, most notably the destruction of a salt marsh to provide a parking area for the marina, and the effects from the development on iwi.

"The evidence presented to the Environment Court about the value of Whangamata's salt marsh was, in the Court's own words, 'strikingly at variance'," Mr Carter said.

"In a nutshell, three experts claimed the salt marsh was ecologically valuable, and should be retained, and the applicant's expert believed that was not the case. After some difficulty making its decision, the Environment Court chose to favour the applicant's position.

"I cannot agree with the Court on this matter. In my view it is apparent that the salt marsh is valuable and I am not satisfied it should be destroyed simply because money would be spent enhancing another salt marsh.

"I recognise that the Whangamata Marina Society has spent a great deal of time and money on this proposal and I sympathise with their frustration at my decision but in the end I have to perform my statutory duty," Mr Carter said.

"New Zealand's coast is a spectacular asset and development on it needs to be very carefully considered. In this case, my view is that the proposed development would not achieve sustainable management, and thus the purpose of the Resource Management Act."


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