Delaware Bay Access update

A huge crowd of fishers stunned at Nelson City Council attitude

Nelson City Council has lost the plot, become dysfunctional, profligate, vexatious, tunnel visioned and vindictive. That’s part of the sentiment echoed at a meeting held by the Delaware Bay Access Group to update recreational fishers on the Council’s recent application to the Environment Court, seeking a declaration that launching small boats at Delaware Estuary is illegal.

The meeting, attended by approximately 150 people, was addressed by Simon Mardon and Daryl Crimp from the Delaware Bay Access Group and Mayoral candidates Dr Nick Smith and Tim Skinner. Council candidates from the Nelson Citizens Alliance also attended in support of maintaining public access.

The Council’s long held position is that the activity is illegal, despite their own Coastal Management Rule CMr33.1 clearly allowing for the driving on estuaries to launch at boat ramps. Nick Smith said that Council’s argument that there is no ‘official’ ramp at Delaware Estuary is disingenuous because one did exist.

“Council have admitted to me that they removed the ramp from the plan in error, in 2001, and my repeated requests for them to do the right thing and reinstate it have been met with stubborn refusal.”

Council’s further argument that fishers are causing major environmental damage is ludicrous, according to Daryl Crimp. On an aerial photo of the estuary, he demonstrated how the area used by boaties actually represented a fraction of one percent of the whole estuary. He then showed photos of the devastation caused by the recent flooding—gravel and silt deposits 20cm deep smothering most of the estuary—and suggested Council should divert money from their vexatious claim in the Environment Court and spend it where it is more needed in the community.

Nick Smith addresses the meeting

He also said The Delaware Bay Group had spent three years working with Council staff to develop a comprehensive plan to manage the launch site, which included addressing cultural and environmental concerns, erecting signage and investing in habitat restoration and maintenance. “It was an expensive and time consuming process, but it ticked all the boxes and was published on NCC website,” Daryl Crimp said. “Bizarrely, Council pulled the pin on the project in 2019 without consulting us and terminated all further work with the group!”

Tim Skinner, a Nelson City Councillor of three terms and current Mayoral Candidate, a strong supporter of maintaining access at Delaware, said that working with staff has been frustrating. He said most Councillors have been kept in the dark on the issue or told not to get involved because ‘it is an operational issue’ that is being dealt with. He said repeated attempts by the group to be heard at council meetings has been resisted and, at times obstructed.

Both Tim Skinner and Nick Smith support the Environment Court action being withdrawn and a commonsense approach taken.

The cost of this process to rate payers is enormous.

“The group has spent over 1000 hours working with and battling Council over the past six years, the cost to ratepayers in terms of Council resources, wages, salaries, commissioned reports, legal fees, investigations and enforcement activities must already run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Daryl Crimp said. “The further cost to ratepayers of the Environment Court action has been estimated at $150,000 or more!”

The meeting also heard that Council is also confused about interpreting its own rules. It argues Delaware Estuary launch site is not a ramp because it is not a manmade ‘structure’, yet the three other ramps in the area—one a sloping sandy beach, one a steep unnavigable shingle drift and one a heavily vegetated bank—are official ramps that boaties can legally use.

Council’s apparent profligate spending was also questioned. Tim Skinner said the annual operational cost of Council had risen from $30m to $110m and Daryl Crimp suggested Council may have lost sight of the value rec fishers bring to the community.

“Kiwi anglers spend close to half a billion dollars a year on chasing snapper alone and Nelson has one of the most abundant snapper fisheries in the country,” he said. “South Island fishers pour over $172 million dollars a year into the community just on bait, gear and fuel—and a fair chunk of that is spent in The Top Of The South.”

The Nelson community has enjoyed launching at Delaware Bay Estuary— the only safe all weather launch site in the area—for 180 years, without causing negative environmental impact. The Delaware Bay Access Group said it is important the community retains unfettered access and called on people to take action.

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