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Caring for the Ohiwa Harbour

Ohiwa Harbour management - many hands make light work 

Many organisations are working in partnership to make sure Ohiwa remains the special place that it is today and for generations to come. The partnership includes Opotiki and Whakatane District Councils, Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Department of Conservation, Whakatohea, Upokorehe, Ngati Awa and Tuhoe. The Ohiwa Harbour Strategy (OHS) was created in 2008 and the document charts a path for how the partners work with each other and the community to care for the Harbour. This strategy was refreshed during 2014 and 2015 to ensure it reflects current needs.

The Ohiwa Harbour Strategy Coordination Group (OHSCG) is made up of representatives from the OHS partner organisations and meets four times each year. OHSCG members tend to work 'at the coal face' in their organisations, planning and managing the work that is relevant to caring for the Ohiwa Harbour.

Overseeing this work and providing project governance is the Ohiwa Harbour Implementation Forum (OHIF). OHIF members tend to be politicians or elected representatives from each of the OHS partner organisations. OHIF meets twice each year; OHIF meeting minutes are available here.


Managing development

Under the Resource Management and Local Government Acts, district and regional councils are legally responsible for managing development, and balancing development with protection and enhancement of natural and cultural values.

In the Ohiwa Harbour, regional and district planning documents contain policies (principles that guide decision making) and rules that guide what may or may not be done in and around the Harbour and its environs. The Bay of Plenty Regional Council, and the Whakatane and Opotiki District Councils, are responsible for creating these guiding documents in conjunction with iwi and the community. Regional and district plans, policies and rules must all comply with relevant national policies, such as the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement.

Regional and district planning and policy documents for the Ohiwa Harbour include:

Management of natural resources is supported by iwi and hapu resource management plans. These plans are developed and approved by hapu and/or iwi and must be taken into account by councils in decision-making processes. The hapu and iwi management plans that outline tangata whenua values, aspirations and issues relevant to the Ohiwa Harbour include:

  • Tawharau o nga hapu o Whakatohea: Whakatohea Resource Management Plan
  • Te Upokorehe Iwi Management Plan
  • Te Kete Kai a Te Tohu Mohukihuku mo te Umu Taonoa a Tairongo: Ngati Awa Iwi Management Plan
  • Tuhoe Iwi Management Plan.

Oil spill response

Bay of Plenty Regional Council works in conjunction with Maritime New Zealand to prepare for and manage oil spill responses, such as the 2012 grounding of the 'Rena' cargo vessel off the coast of Tauranga. Fortunately, oil from the Rena grounding did not enter the Ohiwa Harbour. Read more about this oil spill response work.

Monitoring the harbour's health

Bugs, bats, birds, bush…and water quality

A number of agencies and groups are responsible for carrying out ecological and water quality monitoring in and around the Ohiwa Harbour. You can find environmental reports on Ohiwa Harbour here. The ecological monitoring programme assesses such things as bats, invertebrates, threatened plants, native vegetation, marsh birds, freshwater fish and whitebait.

The environmental monitoring programme has shown that water quality in the Ohiwa Harbour is slowly improving, with a reduction in the amount of nutrients entering the harbour. While great news, erosion in the catchment is still bringing too much sediment into the harbour and more work remains to be done to address this issue. For up to date data about the Nukuhou River, visit the LAWA (Land, Air, Water Aotearoa) website.


Sustainable land management improves harbour health

Riparian management, which is the care and protection of the banks or margins of a waterway, is of vital importance in the Ohiwa Harbour. Erosion of stream and river banks can cause sediment and nutrients to enter the Harbour, affecting its water quality and biodiversity.

Impact of stock in the Harbour

Stock in the Harbour or catchment stream margins has a real impact on how much sediment enters the Harbour. The Regional Council has for many years worked hard to exclude stock from these places.  In 2011, the final three kilometres of fencing were added to protect all 56 kilometres of the Ohiwa Harbour margin. The Regional Council credits landowners and Te Upokorehe for helping to make this happen.

A number of catchment streams flow into the Harbour and fencing work is on-going to protect them from stock access. Most of the 28.8 kilometres of Ohiwa Harbour catchment’s stream margins are fenced or planted to prevent stock access. Protection work is also underway on the 146.5km of the Nukuhou River and its tributaries.

Read more about how local farmers are contributing to the health of the Ohiwa Harbour in the case study - Great farm management improves Ohiwa Harbour.

Local action

Care groups harness the enthusiasm, knowledge and experience of dedicated local residents who have adopted several areas in the harbour. There are currently three formal care groups - the Nukuhou Salt Marsh, Ōhiwa Reserves and Ruatuna-Pukeruru care groups - and several informal residents' groups. Individuals within these groups care for the habitats in their local areas so that biodiversity can be protected and enhanced. The groups include the residents of Ohakana Island and Paparoa Road, and Te Upokorehe, which cares for Hokianga Island.

Over the years, the groups have made a huge contribution to enhancing the natural and cultural values of the Harbour. You can be part of this local action, too. To get involved in track building and maintenance, predator control and revegetation projects, contact the Ohiwa Harbour coordinator

Read more about how local Care Groups are contributing to the health of the Ohiwa Harbour in the case studies: