Whaingaroa (Raglan) Harbour covers 33 km2 on the North Island's West Coast, about 50 kms from Hamilton. The surrounding catchment of 530 km2, has five sub-catchments: Waingaro, Ohautira, Waitetuna, Okete -Te Uku, and Te Mata.
Whaingaroa Harbour catchment is the largest community on the Waikato West Coast, and one of the largest rural harbour communities between Auckland and Wellington. In 1991, 5661 people lived in the wider Whaingaroa community, with 2019 in the Raglan township.
The diverse Whaingaroa community has both rural and urban elements, and a strong Maori cultural influence. 17% of the population identifies as Maori, with 10 hapu in the catchment.
Whaingaroa Harbour is the base for commercially significant fishing operations, and the catchment offers important recreational resources including: swimming, surfing, spectacular bush and coastal walks, and harbour cruises. There are also a number of heritage sites in the area including numerous "middens" and Maori Pa. Whaingaroa is becoming increasingly popular for tourism, holiday homes and lifestyle living.
In the past Whaingaroa Harbour had valuable stocks of crayfish, scallops, cockles, snapper, flounder and other species. Today the land supports a range of farming activities; but changes to land use and vegetation cover have put growing pressure on the biophysical environment. Native vegetation removal and pastoral farming have contributed to the erosion of soil, effluent run-off, and a decline in surface water quality. The siltation of waterways, and depletion of native flora and fauna from extensive agricultural development are an increasing concern.
Recent urban growth has also placed pressure on amenity values and services in the area. Sewage and rubbish disposal are important issues in relation to the health of the Whaingaroa Catchment and harbour.
Although coastal waters outside Whaingaroa Harbour continue to sustain snapper fisheries which boast the best catches in the country; the past 10 years have seen the once-abundant stocks of fish and shellfish within the harbour dramatically diminished.
Significant rapid depletion of fish, and concerns about harbour water quality
Increasing pressure from outsiders as a desirable place for commercial, recreational, lifestyle and tourist activities
Recognition of the environmental effects of land use activities on the health of the harbour.
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