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Whangamata Follies

No-one is above the law’ – that seems a widely held principle, even in Whangamata where crime in general is abhorred, and perpetrators quickly incarcerated.

One could therefore be excused for being shocked at the actions of Councillor Jack Wells, and other residents (Waikato Times – 15 November 2012) who took the law into their own hands and with utter disregard for due process proceeded to chainsaw an area of mangroves “the size of two tennis courts” – presumably to make a point.

There are two issues here – firstly the undoubtedly illegal actions of Councillor Wells that gives rise to the reasonable question whether the Waikato Regional Council has the ‘cojones’ to lay charges, notwithstanding his smart arsed “neither confirm nor deny” statement. Jack is a good guy, and popular in his community because he ‘calls a spade a spade’, but tolerance of his utterances and actions should not extend to being treated differently than anyone else who breaks the law. The Times photograph of him in his gumboots holding cut mangroves is a direct challenge to the authorities.

The other issue concerns the fact that our council, including Cr Wells, recently agreed to undertake a district wide review of estuaries where mangroves are encroaching in order to develop a rational district-wide policy on removal. This should meet the reasonable needs of residents for whom boating and views are paramount, and those for whom the environment – shelter for marine life, and birds, and protection from erosion are of greater importance. The former are disdainful of the latter, often to the extent of using abusive descriptive terms.

The utter senselessness of unauthorised mangrove destruction in Whangamata over the years has divided the community and posed a dilemma for the Regional Council that while slow and deliberate, has endeavoured to follow a rational course of action. This is not helped by the hot-heated actions of those who supported the Wells led ‘wild west’ posse last month.

The irony of the aggressive demand by Whangamata Board Chair Johnston at a recent Council meeting that the entire District should share the $1.1 cost (Regional Council estimate) for limited Whangamata mangrove clearances seems entirely lost on its representatives.       


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