Auckland Council decides to continue allowing set netting at Matakatia Bay despite concerns from the community and local board.
Council staff investigated the need for a ban after a notice of motion from Hibiscus and Bays local board but found many complaints around littering, overnight camping or noise would not be addressed through a ban.
At the Regulatory committee on August 9, members voted to keep the status quo of allowing set netting.
During public input, Matakatia Bay Action Group spokesperson Lance Wickman said the flat and shallow waters of the bay made it perfect for vulnerable swimmers.
“The report is limited and does not provide grounds for an informed decision,” Wickman said. “Attempts to lodge complaints have been ignored … I was told the compliance team would not be responding to complaints going forward and that I should approach the local board.”
Wickman said set netting at the bay was a public safety risk and that swimmers have been caught in nets.
“One local swam into a net and was entangled. They were a confident swimmer so were able to escape but I am not so sure an elderly person would fare the same … Sooner or later a tragedy will occur.”
Wickman said the report failed to consult with the local community or local board.
Senior policy advisor Bonnie Apps later confirmed this and said they had only spoken with the Ministry of Primary Industries and the local marae during the investigation.
Community and Social Policy general manager Kataraina Maki said not undertaking consultation was typical in this process. “If the request from the local board had been different we may have gone further in consultation… Other bans already in existence were done through this process,” Maki said.
Maki said putting in a set netting ban required a high level of evidence and a picture of set netting at the bay did not meet the standard.
Some complaints were about people gathering and Maki said it was difficult to identify why council would need to restrict public gatherings. “When you are looking to restrict the rights and freedoms of people you need to have the appropriate measures.”
Chair Linda Cooper said that one complainant had taken a picture of people sitting on a ute at the bay.
“That is not set netting. People are allowed to do that,” Cooper said. “When you live by a beach it feels very much your own but all beaches are public spaces.”
Cooper encouraged the community to put in complaints around set netting. “Please do not be afraid to put in complaints. That is how we identify trends. That helps council staff to see the hot spots.”
Crs Sharon Stewart and Daniel Newman proposed an amendment to defer the vote until a more robust report could be put together.
Newman said while he agreed it was important not to conflate the issue of set netting with group assembly or littering, he believed doing nothing was not a proportional response.
Newman questioned the matrix that sets out priority situations for compliance staff to attend.
“This is hard because I am really beginning to wonder if the prioritisation matrix is really going to have many benefits beyond the most egregious issues like dog attacks,” Newman said.
The amendment was lost with Cr Newman and Stewart being the only members to vote in support.