Joint project on harbour’s future issues

Otago Harbour. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Otago Harbour. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Commercial challenges and opportunities in Otago Harbour will be explored in a joint council initiative.

Present and future environmental, cultural and recreational issues will also be reviewed in the project.

The Otago Regional Council is seeking a consultant to put together a "comprehensive and balanced" report into approaches for the council, the Dunedin City Council, mana whenua and others to work together to address the harbour’s issues.

Last year, both councils said they were in the early stages of developing a "harbour plan" for Otago Harbour.

Now, tender documents obtained by the Otago Daily Times show the work is beginning.

The harbour’s ecological health, water quality, changing cultural landscape, access for mahinga kai, ageing recreational infrastructure, sediment accumulation in boating channels, and unfulfilled commercial potential had all been raised as concerns, the request for proposals documents said.

"In areas with a wide range of uses, values, and needs, solutions to one problem can sometimes create other problems elsewhere," they said.

"This project should consider (as a minimum) the history and cultural landscape of the harbour, physical setting, environmental trends, previous studies and reports, district and regional plans, other anecdotal information, consented and non-consented activities, current and planned work programmes, competing uses, community aspirations, and the implications of climate change."

The project should also explore the present "management framework", or roles of agencies and others connected to the harbour and identify where there were overlaps, or gaps, it said.

The regional council would also work with mana whenua to prepare a "cultural narrative" to be incorporated into the consultant’s report.

The harbour (Te awa Ōtākou) played a fundamental role in the wellbeing of Ōtākou hapū and whānau, the tender documents said.

"Traditionally it was the mode for other hapū to visit, and in today's world it is the lifeline to the international trade that benefits the region.

"Protocols relating to the protection, access, use and management of the Te awa Ōtākou/Otago Harbour and environs must be underpinned by cultural values and customs that encourage respect, responsibility and durability.

"The cultural history and future aspirations of mana whenua will be an important consideration."

Once the report was finished council staff would recommend the most suitable management approaches identified to their respective councils.

The tender documents said community engagement would be required to complete the project, noting the city council’s Otago Harbour reserves consultation is under way.

Community engagement for the harbour plan should complement rather than duplicate that work.

The city council would share the results of their harbour reserves consultation with the successful tenderer, the documents said.