Thu, Feb 16, 2023 5:00 AM

Opinion: Better Forestry Regimes- and Action - Needed to Safeguard Marlborough Sounds Health




Despite numerous scientific reports warning of the threat, the well-being of the Idyllic Marlborough Sounds is declining under a smothering blanket of silt says a Marlborough environmentalist and Sounds landowner Pete Watson. He is frustrated over the lack of action to combat the problem despite scientific warnings from not just years, but four decades.

“From as far back as the 1980s Marlborough district councillors have had over 15 reports put in front of them advising that forestry techniques and areas planted are having severe consequences for the environment largely with silt laden run-off from commercial forestry clear felling,” he says.

The impact of poor forestry logging practices, clear felling and silty following rains has been disastrous for the ecology of inner bays, says Pete Watson.

“I personally dived recorded and filmed the poor state of the Mahau sound in 2018 showing how bad it was but gained little support.  The bottom is lifeless.”

The Mahau Sound that in the early 1980s was a sandy bottom and commercially scallop fished is now in its entirety, filled in with mud and silt mainly coming from the Pelorus River catchment which enters the Pelorus Sound by Havelock. Virtually nothing lives on the very shallow silt-filled inlets of the Kaiuma Bay, Mahikipawa Bay and Mahau Sound near the Pelorus River’s mouth he says.

The Kenepuru Sound, another inlet of the Pelorus Sound has been photographed from space showing, how discoloured the water is from silting year-round.

“The Kenepuru and outer Pelorus Sounds once a haven of food, are now choked with mud and silt,” says Pete Watson. He says over 15 scientific reports over the years and more recently a Stuff article entitled “Marlborough Sounds Forestry Blocks Fail Initial Check” is damning evidence of the lack of action by both central and more particularly the Marlborough District Council governments.

He considers it’s difficult to alert the public of the dire threat as from the surface most see and believe the Sounds to be pristine and well cared for - but underneath the surface the Sounds are becoming increasingly desolate and lifeless.

Pete Watson says the lack of action and self-denial by silence and inaction, infuriates those who have been bringing examples to councillors for over the past twenty years.

His message is sharp and clear. “Enough is enough. Stop hiding behind the statement 'we need more science’. Council has had over 15 scientific reports and continue to receive the science.  Do something towards repairing the environmental and ecological destruction.”

“It will take generations to repair so start now and perhaps our grandchildren will see in person how once the Sounds was healthy,” he says.

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