New boat cleaning rules could be introduced in a bid to stop the spread of marine pests in coastal waters around the upper North Island.
Northland Council is running a two-month consultation on whether to develop shared rules on managing hull cleaning across the four biggest boating regions - Northland, Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty.
Options range from making it a requirement for boaties to have a clean hull at all times, only when moving or only when moving to specifically identified places.
Northland councillor David Sinclair says applying a consistent approach was crucial to addressing the issue of marine pests in coastal waters.
"Given our four northern-most regional councils (Northland, Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty Toi Moana) are also collectively home to the country's biggest boating populations, we think creating a consistent regulatory approach is a crucial part of how we respond to the growing threat of marine pests," he says.
Biosecurity New Zealand manages national rules to minimise the risk of new pest species arriving on vessels from overseas, but the regulations for vessels moving around within coastal waters varies from region to region.
David says setting a consistent standard for vessel hull cleaning was an opportunity to help safeguard the marine environment for future generations.
"Some of the world's worst marine invaders – things like the northern Pacific seastar, the Chinese mitten crab and invasive kelps such as caulerpa – haven't reached New Zealand yet, but if they do, having clean hulls will help prevent their spread between our harbours and special places like offshore islands," he says.
"These pests threaten our incredible coastal playground and its underwater life, including kaimoana. They also pose considerable risks to our tourism and aquaculture industries."
If new rules were proposed, each council would also have to consider factors including roles and responsibilities, where the costs would lie and how they should be funded.
Council biosecurity manager Don McKenzie says the four northern councils wanted to hear what their respective communities thought before advancing the hull cleaning initiative further.
"We'd like to encourage as many people as possible to take this unusual opportunity to have a say on a local authority issue that traverses several regions.” he says.
David says feedback would be reported back to each of the four councils by mid 2019. If agreed upon, a formal process to provide opportunity for public input would be undertaken before progressing the initiative further.