Last Estuary on North Shore Under Threat

Long Bay coast (photo by Kunal Kumar)
Long Bay coast (by Kunal Kumar)

The Okura Estuary, located at the northern end of the North Shore, is the last estuary in good condition on the North Shore. It is the only protected estuary in Auckland, providing a nursery ground for our fisheries and marine species. The Estuary is in excellent condition; its waters have not been degraded and it provides a healthy environment for abundant marine life. Dolphins and whales have been seen playing in the waters and it is an important area for migratory birds like the godwits. But with the development of the Auckland Unitary Plan, the Estuary’s good condition has come under threat.

The Estuary is part of the Long Bay–Okura Marine Reserve. The northern side is bordered by beautiful native forest in a Department of Conservation reserve. The southern side is flanked by rolling grassy hills.

Okura Richard Hursthouse 4
Okura coast (by Richard Hursthouse)

In order to protect the waters, ecology, and landscape of the Estuary and its environs, two Environment Court decisions restricted development on the southwestern side to lot sizes of an average of 2 hectares and the southeastern side to 4 hectares (10 acres). There was a high risk of the Estuary being adversely affected if more intensive development were permitted.

150214 Okura Forest Festival - Geoff Reid and Teresa Moore
Teresa Moore and Geoff Reid with a landscape diagram of the coastline we are trying to protect from developers, at the Okura Forest Festival in 2015.

The Unitary Plan process has opened up an opportunity for the protective restrictions on the land to be challenged and changed. Proposals have been put forward by landowners on the eastern side of the Estuary for more intensive development with many houses on small lots.

The Okura Environmental Group (OEG) and the Long Bay–Okura Great Park Society (LBOGP Society) have combined to fight to retain the protections that the Courts put in place to ensure there is a high-quality estuary with clean water and a nursery for breeding fish and birds for our future generations to experience. They want the exceptional landscape protected for all people to enjoy.

An Independent Hearings Panel has been established to rule on evidence provided by all submitters to the Unitary Plan. Being involved has been a very complex, expensive process, with specialised expert knowledge needed on a wide range of topics.

A major hearing—the determination of the urban boundary at Okura—is being held this month on 27 January. The current location of the boundary means that intensive development cannot occur beyond that line to the Estuary. Moving the boundary to the edge of the Estuary will allow development to happen in this sensitive area. If this happens, the landscape will change and the waters will be at risk of degradation. Fish and bird life will be threatened.

The OEG and LBOGP Society urgently—immediately—need funds to defend what the Courts have already deemed essential to protect the Estuary. Costs for this hearing are likely to exceed $30,000. Help is needed from all who are concerned about the possible degradation of a natural treasure on North Shore’s doorstep. Essential litigation steps are occurring right now, and to delay participation will be too late.

To help save the Okura Estuary in its healthy, lovely form, donations can be made to the Long Bay–Okura Great Park Society:

For more information, or if you are able to help in other ways, please contact the convenor, Chris Bettany, on 09 479 4015 or 021 020 40 435.


Okura Billboard


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