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Councillors clash over seaweed removal

COUNCILLORS clashed at this week’s Gisborne District Council meeting over the issue of removing seaweed from beaches, as they sought a way around requiring a resource consent.

The clash was between councillor Shannon Dowsing, who said seaweed on beaches was a natural process, and fellow councillor and long-time surf lifesaver Brian Wilson.

Cr Wilson raised the issue, and he asked what action could be taken in future. The national surf lifesaving championships are in Gisborne in March.

Liveable communities director Andrew White confirmed a consent was needed. The Minister of Conservation had the final say.

There was no budget for the removal of seaweed, and paying the cost of unscheduled work meant there would be no funds for something else.

The beach clean-up was not done around seaweed, which was an environmental storm issue. The clean-up involved wood debris.

Amber Dunn said the council could talk to commercial seaweed collectors but Pat Seymour said the last time there was an application for a commercial take, the application was withdrawn after opposition.

Larry Foster said the largest amounts of seaweed were at Makorori and Young Nick’s Head. People took it away for their gardens and it was not a problem.

“It comes and goes,” he said.

More clarity on issue neededMeredith Akuhata Brown said she was seeking clarity on the issue. There was frustration and more information was needed.

Rehette Stoltz said it was a natural process. If there was a surf lifesaving contest and a consent was needed, they would have to think about that earlier.

Mr Dowsing said the council was missing the point. This was a coastal marine environment and this was a natural process.

“There is no reason to clean the beach.The beach is self-sustaining. We are talking about going and manufacturing a play area for ourselves in an environment for coastal habitat.

“It is a bit like saying go around and pick up every fruit that falls out of a tree or every leaf.

“We don’t need to do it. The purpose behind this is so it is more aesthetically pleasant.”

Brian Wilson said he had been in surf lifesaving for 50 years and was well aware of what the coastal environment was like.

If it had been a small amount of seaweed, it would not have been an issue, but it was a “heck of a lot”.

What was being suggested was that visitors could come from out of town where their beach cleaning was sufficient, see seaweed all over the place and never come back again.

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