One of our readers, Janine Clement, wrote to us early this month attaching the above photos:-

“The major issue I [had] with the proposed date of around 5 December for the 1st flushing cycle is for the first time that I am aware of we have 2 pairs of Australian Coots nesting in the top lagoon — one pair of Coots have the chicks still hatching at the moment and the other pair of Coots eggs should be hatching any day now. I have spoken with Michael (Mik) Peryer who is the ‘Birdman’ of Waikanae and he can’t ever recall them nesting on the lagoons.

“If [KCDC proceeded] with that flushing date these chicks will have [had] zero chance at surviving as they are water birds & spend very minimal time out of the water & if they are out of the water they are right by the edge — their fat toes aren’t made for land dwelling. What I have found out is under the Wildlife Act NZ they are protected and this was confirmed with a phone call to DOC. 

“Flushing that early in December [doesn’t] kill off the weed [targeted] as the temperatures are not hot enough yet. So if that date could be put out to late December prior to Christmas or January would be even better as the temperatures are warmer [KCDC] will achieve the results [wanted] and more importantly some of the Coot Chicks stand a chance at surviving.  Part of the problem with the health of the lagoons is how much stormwater comes into [them] — really there shouldn’t be any!

“I do appreciate that flushing the lagoons has to occur, but a more scientific approach needs to be taken and the birds definitely need to be taken into consideration as we lose a lot of the young ones each year because of the flushings prior to Christmas — to me trying to make the lagoons look extra tidy for Christmas is not a priority, they should be maintained at a good level all year round (which they are currently); we have visitors to the area all the time.

“I do have major concerns about how the flushings occur each year and since I have lived here I have kept dates on when they occurred & for how many days etc. It has not been consistent and some of what has occurred has been very detrimental to the Bird Life — I think it’s way past the stage of draining the lagoons, closing the gates and leaving it empty for a number of days, that just means none of the young birds survive. The opening of the gate and flushing the lagoons with the incoming/outgoing tides for 36-48 hours works much better and the results achieved are better from what I’ve observed. Also, trying to get reports on the annual flushings which are meant to be available to the public on request has proven fruitless — I have come to realise that there are no written reports about the results of the annual flushings like there’s meant to be and this was confirmed by a Council person.”

Tony Martin of KCDC responded to our request for comment on this:

“Flushing of the lagoons is carried out in accordance with the management plan for the lagoons (Waimanu Lagoons Management Plan June 2000).

“We got in touch with the Department of conservation (DoC) prior to the scheduled flushing to ensure this activity is not harming the birdlife, specifically the Australian Coots, and they confirmed that it is safe to go ahead. They also support our flushing programme. 

“The aim of the periodic flushing is to retain the predominantly freshwater aquatic environment, but to give the lagoons a regular tidal ‘shock’ to slow the growth of freshwater submerge aquatic plant species.”

“The management plan has scheduled the flushing between September and April. One in early summer, one in mid-summer, one in early autumn. One additional flushing might be scheduled during mid-summer if the early summer temperatures are above average.

“Each flushing takes 36-48 hours (three-four tidal cycles).

The programmed flushing on 5 December did not go ahead due to inclement weather so it is proposed to flush the lagoons later this month.”