The Waitakere City Council has over a many years had active; weed, native plant restoration and tree protection regimes in place. A journey by train clearly shows the Auckland/Waitakere boundary. Indeed, In the rail section between Britomart and Newmarket one can view most of the nasties which label Auckland "the weediest city in the world" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasive_species_in_New_Zealand). I include in the definition of weeds; possum and mustelid control (and other non-flora pests) previously undertaken by the ARC (for instance; Operation Forestsave).
What guarantees can the Supercity Council give to Waitakere residents that the amalgamation will not result in a reduction in services, resources, and advice to the residents and efforts by the local authorities to reduce the impact and minimise the expansion of the weed population in general, and maintain the protection of heritage tress and areas?
Funding for weeds in Waitakere will be in the LTCCP's of both the Council and the Auckland Regional Council. You are quite right, this must be kept intact, and as this has been one of my particular interests, as Chair of Parks and Heritage in Auckland Regional Council, I will be keeping a sharp eye out for any attempt to erode this funding. Also, don't forget, in the last year, ARC put $1.3 million into biosecurity in Waitakere and this needs to be protected. This was for such things as feral pig control, community pest control (lending traps etc), control of weeds on and around parks, including the Strategic Weed Initiative which for several years has been fighting weeds such as agapanthus and climbing asparagus at places like Piha, possum control, pest fish control in Lake Wainamu, and kauri dieback. In fact, funding for weed control in Waitakere is for me the Number One environmental problem, and I will be arguing hard to get this increased. Large parts of our beautiful forest are under real threat through weeds such as tradescantia, ginger, woolly nightshade, climbing asparagus. It all looks green, but much of it, especially nears settlements is doomed if regeneration is prevented by smothering weeds. The ARC is getting on top of feral pigs and is stepping up control to four times a year as it has found that with reduced pig numbers following control, sows have more litters, and bigger litters and more abundant food means that infants are less likely to be eaten by their parents. I also believe possum contol needs stepping up. Although counts for possums through the Ranges are overall low, there are hotspots especially around settlements.
I don\'t know if the \"super city\" can give any guarantees but I can promise to continue to advocate for the funding of our excellent Weed Free Waitakere team and to continue their excellent work. I have worked really hard to secure funding for Eco Matters trust to grow their capacity to deliver environmental initiatives that promote an environmentally sound and sustainable region.
I have been a strong supporter of pest control initiatives - on both weeds and animals - in my time on the ARC. I will continue with this commitment if elected to the Auckland Council and work to see that the standard adopted is the highest of the outgoing councils rather than a lowest common denominator approach. These are very significant in Waitakere and other areas which have native forest in particular as in some places the weeds have the postential to cause permanent habitat change.
Tree protection is very much a challenge given the Government\\\'s recent ammendment to the Resource Managment Act prohibiting general tree protection and requiring instead an approach of scheduling individual trees. It is an entirely impractical appraoch for forested urban areas such as we have in Waitakere, or areas with extensive coastal vegetation as occurs all round Auckland. I presented on this matter on behalf of ARC to the select committee and appeared to gain good understanding there. However I was dismayed to find that subsequently Waitakere City Council appeared and submitted that they didn\\\'t see the propose change was a problem, effectively undermining the progress ARC had made with the committee.
In my view, the only practical way of addressing this is for the new council to put pressure on the Government to change the situation. The alternative would be an extremely costly and time consuming - yet less effective - process of endeavouring to schedule individual trees. The costs would fall on both ratepayers and landowners. The Government and those who supported its proposals just didn\\\'t think this one through.