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Bay of Plenty oil disaster has significant affects on leisure

Bay of Plenty oil disaster has significant affects on leisure
October 14, 2011

The leisure industry in the coastal Bay of Plenty area is suffering significant affects as a result of the Rena oil spill with container debris now continually entering the Tauranga harbour and re-oiling nearby beaches with each tide.

The New Zealand Recreation Association (NZRA) has reported that beaches and parks are closed around Tauranga, with aquatic recreation and food gathering having nearly completely ceased. The environmental toll rises, as do people gathering at the beach to see for themselves the destruction, or to return looking to help make it the way it used to be.

Geoff Canham, Chairman of the NZRA Central Region reports "as a local, it is like being forced to watch a horrible crime again and again.

"We have a lot of work ahead of us as a community for a very long time. Until people feel they have retrieved their special places the only recreation for many could be on the end of a shovel".

Canham says people are beginning to already notice massive changes in the way they live, stating "you can't walk the dog, or even walk yourself around our harbour foreshores or on the beach. People can't enter the water, swim, surf, fish, or train for parts of their triathlon.

The Mount Hot Saltwater Pools has turned off its sea intake. Many communities that rely on kaimoana to live are unable to gather it anymore. Fishing and surfing concessions have ceased."

Canham says beach clean ups are now the main activity, adding "this area reveres its coast. There are over 50 coast care groups, two harbour recreation forums, and dozens of beach wardens; people are hard wired into these recreation settings as a way of life. They are devastated."

The impact on tourism in the area has yet to be fully comprehended.

The recent Tauranga Harbour Recreation Strategy user surveys showed that 50% of harbour users in either summer or autumn were from Auckland or the Waikato, who mostly cited "beautiful and clean conditions" as their reason for repeat visiting and staying in the area.

As the scale of the environmental disaster continues to sink the industry is proving resilient, Canham concluding "while Tauranga is facing a summer where it may not be possible to even go to the beach, the local newspaper has already profiled alternative recreation opportunities including our relatively new Regional Parks such as Papamoa Hills, TECT All Terrain, and Huharua Harbour Park.

"The Mount Hot Pools, open after a long closure due to deferred maintenance, has switched to using town supply water and is open. The new dog bylaws have created places for dogs to ensure their owners walk, the Kaimai Forest Park is still open, and nearly all of these locations still provide views of the sea and harbour."

For more information go to www.nzrecreation.org.nz/

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