The Northern Advocate

What’s best for Kaipara’s East and West?

Mangawhai growth behind district tension

- Susan Botting Local Democracy Reporter

The growing Mangawhai presence on Kaipara District Council is challengin­g the district’s east-west mix, with residents in the west concerned that the east may get more attention - and funding - with the new mayor ankd deputy mayor both from the Mangawhai area.

Mayor Craig Jepson acknowledg­ed the east-west issue was very real in the minds of those in the west, but said it was a misconcept­ion from both sides thinking they are paying for the other side’s needs.

More than $1 billion of investment in Mangawhai and its surrounds is taking effect in the east coast seaside location, as the juggernaut of its heavily Aucklandin­fluenced urbanisati­on moves on.

Mangawhai is New Zealand’s fastest-growing coastal settlement. It has a population of 4000 people – with another 3000 in surroundin­g rural areas. This is projected to grow to more than 17,000 within 20 years. Dargaville has 5240 people, its population slowly starting to grow after being static for many years and at some points declining.

Kaipara District Council (KDC) voters on October 8 elected the council’s first Mangawhai-based mayor in Jepson. He then appointed deputy mayor Jonathan Larsen, from the same KaiwakaMan­gawhai general ward.

The eastern seaboard now accounts for a third of KDC’s political representa­tion, up from 22 per cent before the October local elections.

A sign on Kaipara’s southern State Highway 1 Northland/Auckland border reads “Welcome to Kaipara District – two oceans, two harbours”. It highlights a world of two halves across just over 3000 square kilometres and 27,200 residents.

In the east - focused on the Pacific Ocean and Mangawhai Harbour - is the $750 million-plus Mangawhai Central developmen­t. Mangawhai Central is set to connect Mangawhai’s two existing commercial centres, Mangawhai Heads and Mangawhai village by creating a main street, retail and food and beverage hub, plus an industrial park, retirement village, and residentia­l housing across 130ha.

The internatio­nally high-profile $150m-plus private Tara-iti golf course is on Mangawhai’s outskirts, built by US billionair­e Ric Kayne and counting Barrack Obama among those who have played there.

In the west - focused on the Kaipara Harbour and Tasman Sea – is Dargaville and surrounds, where $720m of investment is slowly playing out – via a $200m wind farm, the roughly $30m Te Kopuru water scheme and the $10m Kaihu Valley Trail inching onwards, while a potential $480m mixed industrial and residentia­l developmen­t is also on the cards on the old Dargaville racecourse at Awakino Point.

West adopting wait and see approach

Kaipara’s new mayor has made the right comments, aimed at reassuring the people of the west after the district elected i ts f i rst Mangawhai-based mayor.

People in Kaipara’s west have heard these reassuranc­es - that their area won’t get left out with the shift in local government leadership towards the east. They now want evidence, with Kaipara’s biggest kumara producer, Dargaville-based Doug Nilsson, among them.

“There’s an apprehensi­on among people on the west side. How’s it going to work?” Nilsson said.

“There’s been so much talk coming out of Mangawhai in recent times, much of it ridiculous. People [in the west][ are hoping we’re not going to get treated badly. There has been a huge amount of money funnelled over to Mangawhai.”

Nilsson’s family owned Mangawhai land from the mid-sixties until 2007 in what is now residentia­l property.

“The [new] mayor came to see me and I told him ‘I’m hoping voting for you, I’m not going to find all the funding is funnelled to over to there [Mangawhai]. He assured me that wasn’t going to be the case but it’s still a bit concerning. The proof will be in the pudding.”

Former KDC deputy mayor and retired Maungaturo­to farmer Peter Bull said the mayor’s choice of an eastern-based deputy should have been forgone for somebody from the west.

“It’s not the right move, politicall­y speaking,” Bull said. “It sends the wrong message straight away.”

Bull was the first KDC deputy mayor, after local government amalgamati­on in 1989 - appointed by Dargaville-based mayor at the time Peter Brown to help geographic­ally balance representa­tion across.

Mangawhai community leader Ken Rayward said there had always been a healthy rivalry between Kaipara’s two sides.

“It’s part of the history and tradition of Kaipara,” Rayward said.

He said it was appropriat­e to have a mayor, deputy mayor and increased political representa­tion for the growing east.

“Mangawhai is the engine room of Kaipara, its land values, its rates, its commercial developmen­t,” Rayward said.

“It’s like a family. If the younger brother feels he’s not getting heard, he’s got to make more of a noise.”

Te Uri o Hau kaumātua Ben Hita said the growth of Mangawhai and surrounds since he returned to live in Northland in the 1980s had been huge.

Hita lives in Kaiwaka but his roots are at the tiny, remote, windswept end-of-the road Pouto community, 130km to the southwest at the mouth of the Kaipara Harbour, where it meets the Tasman Sea. Mangawhai had become 90 per cent bigger while the west had stagnated.

Hita carried out the blessing at the official openings of Mangawhai’s new 5000sq m Bunnings store on November 18, and the settlement’s October opening of a New World supermarke­t.

“I would do about a hundred blessings a year. Most of those are towards the Mangawhai side,” Hita said.

He said there would likely never again be a Dargaville-based mayor for Kaipara, with political representa­tion leaning east amid booming population growth.

Hita said the east-west divide mattered. “It’s about all Kaipara getting a fair deal.” Infrastruc­ture worries Infrastruc­ture is at the heart of much of Kaipara’s east-west tensions. Some in the west wonder whether Mangawhai’s i nfrastruct­ure provision is at the expense of their services. Meanwhile, Mangawhai locals say they pay the predominan­t portion of the council’s rates and wonder how they are being spent, across the district.

Baylys Beach Society chairwoman Cheryl Carmichael said Mangawhai was a great place, and i ts developmen­t was not begrudged. She did believe more council attention supporting growth in the west coast’s Baylys Beach - Kaipara’s second-fastestgro­wing settlement - was needed.

Baylys Beach infrastruc­ture provisions, including stormwater and roading, had not kept pace with the settlement’s growth.

Stats NZ population figures show Baylys Beach has a population of 420. This swells to more than a thousand over summer, with high visitor numbers yearround almost drowning the small Tasman Sea settlement. Carmichael said the infrastruc­ture was under pressure. More and more people were visiting the settlement with Auckland day trippers, hugely increased numbers of four-wheel-drives after the closure of Auckland’s west coast Muriwai Beach and tourists visiting from all over the place.

“Baylys Beach is no longer just busy in the weekends. It’s constantly busy, during the week too.”

For many of those spoken to Mangawhai seems a piece of the jigsaw that doesn’t quite fit. Kumara grower Nilsson said it should not be in Kaipara.

“We don’t have the population to pay for the growth and what Mangawhai needs,” Nilsson said.

He said it should instead be part of Whangārei District. Others say it should have become part of Rodney and thus been part of Auckland, and it still should be.

Bull, also Otamatea County Council deputy chairman before the 1989 amalgamati­on, said Northland’s local government was currently changing shape before his eyes, with Three Waters, local government restructur­ing, huge changes to the Resource Management Act – and more. He predicts amalgamati­on for Kaipara with Northland councils within the next three years.

Baylys Beach resident and former Kaipara mayor (1998 to 2004), Graeme Ramsey, said the two harbours and two oceans aspect had always been part of Kaipara. There had long been different challenges facing Kaipara’s east and west. Mangawhai had grown exponentia­lly, apart from after the global financial crisis, while Dargaville had stood still or declined.

However, the scenario in the west had changed over the last few years - Dargaville and surrounds were now also experienci­ng growth.

Ramsey said Aucklander­s wanting to relocate for a better lifestyle in places like Baylys Beach had helped fuel growth.

“The challenge is how do we manage sustainabl­e growth,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey said the new mayor had clearly indicated his awareness of needing to consider Kaipara’s west.

“What’s quite telling is that the new mayor has made it very clear from the get-go that his personal aim is to be a mayor for all the district, for the council to take a whole-of-district view. Most people in the west really welcome that statement. Time will tell how that translates into action.”

Mayor on east-west Jepson acknowledg­ed the eastwest issue was very real in the minds of those in the west.

“I got that message loud and clear when campaignin­g,” he said. “There’s a misconcept­ion with both sides thinking they are paying for the other side’s needs.”

That was not the case, with targeted rates related to local infrastruc­ture provision.

He said Kaipara’s east and west each have their own character.

Mangawhai is straining at the seams. Infrastruc­ture - particular­ly wastewater, drinking water and electricit­y services for the settlement - is already on the back foot in the face of population growth. It has no reticulate­d water, and wastewater treatment expansion is being hampered by limitation­s of where to expand to for the posttreatm­ent wastewater discharge, with Mangawhai Harbour or ocean discharge being considered.

The Mangawhai Central developmen­t is exacerbati­ng infrastruc­ture provision challenges for the settlement. One-thousand house lots for the developmen­t have been tagged, but section sizes at that density are not big enough to allow for household rainwater tanks. A hotel, retirement village, secondary school and more have also been identified for the developmen­t.

Mediation following an Environmen­t Court appeal by Mangawhai residents worried about the big developmen­t’s wastewater impacts saw changes to the Private Plan change underpinni­ng it. Controls around the provision of wastewater, drinking water and stormwater were added, as well as amendments to maintain Mangawhai’s small-town coastal character, density rule adjustment­s, alteration­s to protect New Zealand’s fairy tern and improved management of adjacent wetlands.

The hangover from Mangawhai’s EcoCare wastewater cost blowout debacle still play out today, significan­tly influencin­g Kaipara east/west sentiment.

Bull said the east/west debate had long been a part of Kaipara, but it was significan­tly amplified by the Mangawhai wastewater cost blowout.

“It was such a disaster. It caused a revolution,” Bull said.

More than 100 Mangawhai ratepayers refused to pay, resulting in higher rates.

Bull said services in the west had suffered as a result. Ratepayers across the district have only last year finished paying off their allocated share of that Mangawhai burden.

Mangawhai Matters lobby group chairman Doug Lloyd said there was still $24m of scheme debt to be paid. Ratepayers were initially told the sewage scheme would cost no more than $10.8m when it was announced in 2003, then $37m in 2009 and up to more than $60m by 2013. The scheme finally ballooned to $83.4m.

Jepson said Kaipara’s infrastruc­ture challenges were not limited to Mangawhai. Dargaville’s wastewater treatment plant was at capacity.

He said rural and provincial councils such as KDC were all f acing infrastruc­ture funding challenges.

KDC’s district-wide spatial planning highlighte­d potentiall­y 30,000 new houses for Kaipara in the next 30 years.

Encouragin­g Aucklander­s

Jepson said Kaipara needed more people. The west in particular needed growth, while it was clear Mangawhai’s growth needed to be managed.

He wants to capitalise on the Kaipara Harbour’s presence in the west, straddling both Auckland Council and KDC.

Jepson is eyeing up Auckland’s 1.72 million people for new subdivisio­ns around Kaipara Harbour’s coastline on currently low-producing land. Sections could be as small as 400sq m.

Architectu­ral designer and new Dargaville-based councillor Gordon Lambeth is pushing for Dargaville’s housing to be sorted as a solution towards Kaipara’s forecast up to 30,000 new houses. Sustainabl­e developmen­t concerns

New Zealand Fairy Tern Charitable Trust convenor and Mangawhai resident, Heather Rogan, said developmen­t needs to be considered.

The trust formally opposed Mangawhai Central, because of the fairy tern or tara-iti. It is New Zealand’s rarest bird, with only 40 in the world, Mangawhai being one of their precarious remaining habitats. A pair of tiny tara-iti used that harbour estuary arm.

Environmen­t Court appeal mediation has resulted in the Mangawhai Central developmen­t being required to fence off wetlands around the upper harbour’s Tara Estuary arm.

The tiny and extremely endangered birds that are now almost exclusivel­y found only in Northland and perhaps offer an important message in the east/west issue.

“They come to Mangawhai, Waipū Cove and Pakiri in the summer to breed,” Rogan said.

And in the winter they head west to Kaipara Harbour’s Papakanui Spit.

“Tara-iti need both sides of Kaipara to survive,” Rogan said.

■ Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.

 ?? ?? From left, Kaipara Mayor Craig Jepson, Dargaville kumara grower Doug Nilsson and former Kaipara deputy chair and Otamatea County Council chair Peter Bull.
The ‘Kaipara – two oceans’ sign welcomes visitors to Te Tai Tokerau on State Highway One at Northland’s boundary with Auckland
From left, Kaipara Mayor Craig Jepson, Dargaville kumara grower Doug Nilsson and former Kaipara deputy chair and Otamatea County Council chair Peter Bull. The ‘Kaipara – two oceans’ sign welcomes visitors to Te Tai Tokerau on State Highway One at Northland’s boundary with Auckland
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