On Tuesday 13 March, the first Ōhiwa Harbour Implementation Forum hui for the new triennium was held on Kutarere Marae. The hui was an opportunity to take stock of progress in and around the Harbour and hear from interested groups about related projects and activities.
Bay of Plenty Regional Councillor, Tipene Marr, was re-confirmed as Chair of the Forum.
Councillor Marr encouraged greater community involvement in the Forum meetings. “Forum meetings are less formal than Council and Committee meetings and we encourage community members to come along and meet d with us. These meetings are a great way to keep up with all the good work that is being done in and around the Harbour,” Mr Marr said.
The Forum keeps a close eye on activities that impact fresh and marine water quality in the Harbour and catchment. They received presentations on many high-profile activities including projects in the farming sector to improve water quality, the Onekawa Te Mawhai Regional Park extension, NZTA’s Safe Roads Campaign, the Ōhope Harbourside Trail, and a proposed cycle trail network that would potentially link Gisborne, Ōpōtiki, Whakatāne, Western Bay and Rotorua.
“We are fortunate to have a very engaged community in Ōhiwa who are really invested in seeing Ōhiwa retain its title of ‘jewel of the Bay of Plenty’. For example, farmers are making significant investments in riparian fencing, wetland construction and biodiversity protection, while school and community groups are active in pest control, bird monitoring, rubbish collection and habitat restoration,” Mr Marr said.
At the meeting, Ōpōtiki District Councillor, Lyn Riesterer was voted into the position of Deputy Chair. Ms Riesterer said that one of the standout presentations was an update on mussel research in Ōhiwa Harbour from local scientist, Dr Kura Paul-Burke.
Dr Paul-Burke’s recent survey work in the Harbour identified and mapped traditional mussel populations versus current populations. The research showed that almost none of the traditional mussel bed areas exist today.
“The research confirms what we have suspected for some time; we have almost lost a key traditional kaimoana resource. We had an important discussion around options for retention and restoration of mussel populations.
“Bringing the mussels back from the brink of extinction in Ōhiwa will be a big job; fortunately, we have much community and stakeholder support for this kaupapa,” Ms Riesterer said.
The Ōhiwa Harbour Implementation Forum (OHIF) has members from the three Councils (Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Ōpōtiki District Council, Whakatāne District Council), representatives of local Iwi (Whakatōhea, Upokorehe, Ngāti Awa and Ngāi Tūhoe) and other invited representatives such as from the Department of Conservation, Ministry of Fisheries, Nukuhou Salt Marsh Care Group. The meetings are also open to the public.
OHIF members each carry out agreed actions within their individual areas of responsibility in order to implement the Ōhiwa Harbour Strategy. The Strategy identifies issues, key community values and aspirations, and recommends actions on how to take Ohiwa Harbour and its catchment from where it is now, to where people want it to be in the future.