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Big win for boaties in Northland Advocacy Case

Issue date

Recreational boaties and yachties visiting the Northland region are assured of safe access to popular anchorages, harbour entrances, bays of refuge and navigational routes thanks to the collective advocacy efforts of Yachting New Zealand, the Auckland Yachting & Boating (AYBA) and Northland Yachting Associations.

Following a significant and favourable decision from the Environment Court in June last year there will be changes made to the Regional Coastal Plan for Northland, and the ramifications are expected to benefit recreational boaties nationwide.

The changes, which include new aquaculture exclusion zones and new wording acknowledging the significance of recreational water users, come into operation today, 9 May 2016.

The process of creating Regional Plans is often long, extending over a number of years, requiring the significant commitment on the part of those involved to see the process through to completion.  In this case, Council hearings were held back in 2007, while appeals to the Environment Court were lodged in 2008.  Due to additional delays resulting from various changes to legislation governing aquaculture, the final decision was not released by the Court until 2015. 

Notwithstanding the time and effort required, it is important that boating interests play a role in their preparation because Regional Coastal Plans control activities in the Coastal Marine Area.  If the Regional Coastal Plan does not properly address those matters of concern to boaties up front, the boating community will have to face repeated battles regarding similar issues as each individual resource consent application for a Marine farm is made.

Yachting New Zealand initiated an appeal to Northland Regional Council Plan Change 4 (relating to aquaculture), worried that marine farming could clog popular bays and hamper safe passage and cruising through the Northland region. 

The original plan provisions proposed did not take proper account of the need to consider and protect safe access to popular anchorages, harbour entrances, bays of refuge, navigational routes and areas commonly used for yacht racing.  The appeal was supported by evidence from a number of well-known and respected boaties who have particular knowledge and experience of the Northland coast.

The advocacy collective, including Yachting New Zealand, AYBA and the Northland Yachting Association, are very pleased that the appeal has resulted in aquaculture being classified as a prohibited activity in a range of additional locations.

Andrew Clouston, Yachting New Zealand Participation and Development Manager explains that the national body was concerned due to Northland’s popularity as a cruising destination for local and visiting recreational boaties and that a number of sailing and boating clubs in the region would be affected.

The changes coming into operation are just what Yachting New Zealand was hoping for; “We now have certainty around particular areas and aquaculture prohibited in those zones,” says Clouston.

“The important aspects for us were around ensuring that recreational boaties can continue to access popular anchorages and that bays-of-refuge, used by boaties as shelter in the case of bad weather, remain accessible.”

“We were also concerned about general navigational safety,” adds Clouston. “And as a result of the decision we have also seen recognised transit routes for vessels widened and expanded. Previously the plan didn’t consider that boats, and in particular sailing yachts, don’t always travel in a straight line and deserve more than a narrow transit corridor when moving up and down our coastline.”

The advocacy group also fought to have policy wording changed to reflect the importance of the recreational use of the coastal marine area in Northland.

“The policy now recognises the importance of recreational activity and safe anchorages – it simply wasn’t in there before,” says Clouston.

Jeremy Brabant, a Barrister specialising in Environmental Law, represented Yachting New Zealand, AYBA and Northland Yachting Association collectively and was instrumental in achieving the outcome.

Richard Brabant, a Barrister and former Vice President of Yachting New Zealand, acted as counsel for landowners in the Bay of Islands who raised concerns about the potential impact of additional aquaculture in the Bay, calling expert evidence about the potential adverse effects upon landscape and recreation.  In combination, the evidence from the YNZ collective and landowners has resulted in almost the entirety of the Bay of Islands being off-limits to any further aquaculture.

The key areas where significant aquaculture-free zones will come into place include Whangaroa, the Cavalli Islands, Doubtless Bay, Bream Bay, the Bay of Islands and harbour access points including Whangaruru , Tutukaka and Whangarei entrances.

New maps which show the zones where aquaculture will be prohibited have been finalised and can be viewed on the Yachting New Zealand website.

The advocacy work that goes on largely behind the scenes at Yachting New Zealand is seen by the organisation as essential to preserve the freedom for all yachties and boaties to enjoy New Zealand’s coastline, not limited to those who are members of clubs.

Doug Smeal, Commodore of Whangarei Cruising Club says, “This outcome means Yacht Club members and all boaties will be able to cruise the Northland coastline and bays and not have to worry about aquaculture structures impairing their safety."

The Environment Court decision around Northland should have national reach as a result of explicit recognition by the Court of recreational and navigational safety considerations, which will guide the preparation of plans for other regions around New Zealand.  Yachting New Zealand isn’t alone in believing the upshot will benefit boaties across the country.

 Richard Brabant comments on the significance of the decision;

“The Yachting New Zealand case resulted in outcomes way beyond my expectations – key and significant areas on the Northland coast from Whangarei north have been mapped as prohibited to aquaculture to the immense benefit of the boating public.”

“From my perspective, having been involved in hearings concerning provision for aquaculture in many parts of New Zealand over a number of years, this has to be the most notable success in terms of protecting our coastline, coastal waters and anchorages from the adverse effects of aquaculture.”

The updated Regional Coastal Plan for Northland (incorporating Plan Change 4 text) will be available on the NRC website from 09 May 2016:

For more information contact:

Michael Brown
Yachting New Zealand communications manager