Access to be decided in Environment Court

Is Nelson City Council deliberately ignoring its obligation to public safety?

The dispute over the legality of launching boats at Delaware Bay Wakapuaka Estuary progressed to the Environment Court in July, with Nelson City Council seeking a declaration over the meaning of Coastal Management Rule 33.1 (CMr33.1), which allows for driving on and disturbance on the foreshore and seabed for a range of activities.

Council maintains the rule is ambiguous and that it is ‘only seeking clarification’, but its submission to the Court has been heavily weighted in the direction of having the driving over the estuary to launch and retrieve boats declared “not permitted”. The move has the full support of local iwi, who claim in their affidavits that the estuary has significant cultural and historical value and that they are the legitimate Kaitiakitanga.

Delaware Bay Access Group (DBAG) maintains the rule is unobscure, that driving over the seabed for the purpose of launching and retrieving is clearly a permitted activity, and has explored all avenues of resolving the council standoff, including: developing a proactive, managed access plan, which addressed cultural, environmental, signage, amenity and demarcation issues, and initially had the support of iwi; resolving the issue in the new management plan through democratic process, and round table discussion. Council has refused, instead opting for the costly legal manoeuvre, funded by rate payers.

Where the councillors stand

Mayor Nick Smith tabled a motion in Council to withdraw the action from the Environment Court and address the issue through the new Plan—a far more democratic way. His motion was supported with strong evidence and sound reason, but Councillors vetoed the move 10—3. Councillor voting: For; Nick Smith, Tim Skinner and James Hodgson. Against: Matty Anderson, Matthew Benge, Trudie Brand, Mel Courtney, Rohan O’NeillStevens, Kahu Paki-Paki, Pete Rainey, Campbell Rollo, Rachel Sanson and Aaron Stallard.

Mayor Nick Smith, James Hodgson, Tim Skinner and Trudie Brand actively supported DBAG and campaigned for the removal from the Environment Court during the local body elections. Mayor Smith, James Hodgson and Tim Skinner have honoured what they said.

Key facts about the case 

• A designated launch area requires approximately one quarter of one percent of the estuary—0.25% 

• The natural gravel course and ramp has been used by the public for at least 180 years 

• There is no evidence of environmental or ecological damage from boat launching 

• It is the only safe all weather launch site in the area and important to public safety 

• Nelson City Council changed the narrative and campaigned to the public that Rule 33 said launching was prohibited or not permitted and designated ramps were required—those words are not in the rule or the Plan 

• Many of the council’s policies and objectives support Delaware Bay launching access yet Councillors appear unaware of these or have a different agenda 

• In effect, by it’s actions Council is directing boaties to launch at Cable Bay, despite knowing it is unsafe and results in multiple rescues per week over summer, and it goes against their own Plan safety policy 

• Delaware Bay Estuary is the primary access point to the local Wakapuaka Tāiapure, an iwi and local asset, yet both Council and iwi have pushed ahead without consulting the Tāiapure Management Committee; a Minister appointed committee of locals and iwi 

• No whāhi tapu or sacred sites have been identified in the area of launching or transit 

• There is a question mark over how many staff and Councillors have actually visited the area 

• Maintaining public access to the coastal marine area is a national and regional priority

Why this is not just a Delaware issue

Many think this is a local issue and doesn’t concern them. Wrong.

Should the Nelson City Council win a ruling that launching requires Resource Consent, it will set a dangerous legal precedent that could put at risk similar access sites in the region and, indeed throughout New Zealand. Beach launching is fundamental to accessing the coastal marine area.

The Government is pushing to have all contiguous Councils align their management plans. Should Nelson City Council win this, it could mean all launching areas then need Resource Consent and Tasman and Marlborough would be expected to fall into line. With the multitude of natural ramps in the Top of the South, imagine the shit-fight that could result. And don’t think it’ll never happen—Nelson City Councillors have just

proven elected local body representatives are prepared to disregard facts, policies, objectives, logic, common sense, reason, public safety and public interest to drive their own agendas or ideology.

Step up or lose out

The Delaware Bay Access Group is fighting this on your behalf and have a strong case to present but we need money to pay legal bills. So far, it has cost us approximately twenty grand so we can’t afford to choke on the doorstep now. The question is—how much are you prepared to pay to save your access?

Let’s finish this thing with a flourish. Give generously to the cause now.

Pay your donation to Delaware Bay Access Group Incorporated Society, bank account: 06-0958-0210014-00

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