The responsibility for harbour safety will rest with a “number of skilled minds” in a new arrangement between the Taranaki Regional Council and Port Taranaki.
A new marine panel has been established to determine safety and navigational issues in the harbour and to strengthen the independence of the organisations’ roles.
While harbour safety responsibilities of each organisation have always been close, it is often not understood that their roles are distinct – the TRC has a regulatory duty for navigational safety in the harbour area, while Port Taranaki has safety responsibility for port company operations and commercial activities that use the harbour and the wharves.
Traditionally the harbour master, who is appointed by the TRC and has also been a Port Taranaki employee, has had the sole task of ensuring both organisations’ harbour safety obligations are met.
Now, to address any potential conflict of interest between regulatory and commercial activities and to provide a combined approach to harbour safety, a marine panel has been set up to make assessment and decisions.
The marine panel comprises harbour master Neville Fox, who is also Port Taranaki’s head of marine services, four deputy harbour masters, who are Port Taranaki pilots Mike Birch, Olaf Wahlen, Adam Eager and Neill MacKean, and an external harbour master, who is former Chief of Navy Rear Admiral Tony Parr. All are appointed by the council and the external harbour master has an overview role.
“This innovative approach not only makes the roles really clear, but brings all of the right skills to bear for successful commercial and recreational activity in the area,” TRC director resource management Fred McLay says.
“It has a number of skilled minds at work rather than just one previously.”
The harbour area that takes in Port Taranaki stretches in a 2.5 nautical mile radius from Mt Moturoa, and includes the Sugar Loaf Islands marine protected area, and a section of the Tapuae marine reserve. Port Taranaki’s boundary is predominantly the area within the Main Breakwater and the Lee Breakwater.
Mr McLay says the external harbour master will be employed on an as-required basis.
“Navigation and safety is not a major task in this region because the TRC only has responsibilities for the port and its approaches [the 2.5 mile nautical radius]. The remainder of the coast is Maritime NZ’s responsibility.”