Guest Post: Opposition to the Point England Development Enabling Bill – It’s about the environment, stupid.

A guest post by :

On April the 7th Nick Smith claimed the primary function of the land at Point England is for grazing cattle.  That, he claimed justifies this land being subdivided and sold.

This Reserve has been used for grazing because in the 1990s Housing New Zealand paid no rates and Councils of the time were not permitted to spend Reserve Contributions outside the areas they were collected. Poor suburbs had no or little money for investment in parks and open spaces. Leasing to farmers was the best option.

Now days those parts of this Reserve are used ten times more by shorebirds, than cows. The shorebirds nesting in this Reserve are at risk of extinction.  The cows, dogs and people using it are definitely not.

Saying this reserve is only used by cows is like saying Eden Park is only used by lawn mowers.

The rest of the land at Point England has significant value for a wide range of people and is well used as sports grounds and open space.  It is really surprising the Government plans to take sports fields from the community by legislation. The ‘housing benefit’ of this Bill is totally questionable, given ‘the numbers’ and the potential costs of this development.  However this post focuses on the environmental losses.

The Point England Development Enabling Bill rezones land that is eligible for internationally recognised protection under the Ramsar convention without any consideration for the environment. Wildlife is not even mentioned in the Bill.  

The Wildlife Act protects dotterel from hunting. The maximum penalty for killing protected wildlife is a $100,000 fine and up to a year in jail. Killing a Northern New Zealand dotterel is an environmental crime. I think destroying their nesting habitat and wilfully putting predators in their midst is even worse because it is not killing just one bird but dooming a local population forever.

Is it less of a crime because an iwi might benefit? – I don’t know, but if I commit a crime to benefit an iwi it’s still a crime.

Ngāti Pāoa are not environmental criminals, this Government on the advice of the Local Government and Environment Committee will be responsible. We can’t fine or put our own government in jail for this crime, all members of the public can do is plead the case for saving the birds. This bill sets an ugly precedent, pitting iwi against the environment and the local community. It needs to be stopped.

An iwi CEO told media “We would look to repatriate the place the [dotterel] are originally from through restoration and revitalisation”. This has been repeated.

Just in case anyone believes this is possible, it is not.   First we do not know where the Point England dotterel were born. Many of them could be second or third generation locals. Second you cannot tell a bird (Northern New Zealand dotterel) where to nest. The most you can do is get permission from DOC, then move a nest a metre or two (usually to avoid a spring tide event). You can use decoys and audio lures for birds that nest together in flocks. Dotterel do not nest in flocks, they are very territorial because their chicks are precocial (feed for themselves) just like kiwi.

Just to be clear – dotterel nests cannot be moved, if this building goes ahead their chicks are not likely to survive either the construction phases of this development, or the domestic pets that will move in later.

We ‘public’ have no longer any ability to decide the fate of this reserve.  The Select Committee currently reporting on this Bill could advise the Minister and MPs on a better way for iwi to get fair settlement; how the communities could keep their recreational land and how New Zealanders can preserve their special nature reserves. 

All the people wanting to save these birds can do now is ask these Members of Parliament – Please will you do the right thing for the nesting dotterel, the future of this species, the roosting shorebirds and the health of the Tamaki Estuary”?     Will they?   Will Nick Smith listen?

Shaun Lee / Julie Chambers
Save our Parks from Development
www.saveourreserves.org.nz

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