Under special legislation recently introduced to parliament, marine protection areas are to triple the total area under protection in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. These areas include some of the most favoured fishing spots in the Gulf and the Coromandel coast, such as parts of the Mokohīnau Islands, the Noises, Aldermen Islands, western and northern Coromandel, Little Barrier Island, Kawau Island, and Tiritiri Matangi Island.
The purpose of the legislation, the Hauraki Gulf / Tīkapa Moana Marine Protection Bill, is to introduce two new types of marine protection which make provision for customary rights. Restrictions will be imposed on specific activities while still permitting customary practices by tangata whenua - (commonly translated as Māori people of a particular locality) - in the proposed ‘High Protection Areas’ and ‘Seafloor Protection Areas.’
The seventeen new type of marine protection areas will consist of:
- Twelve areas where commercial and recreational fishing are banned except for exclusive-to-iwi customary fishing and the harvesting of seafood, as well as cultural practices such as kaitiakitanga (guardianship).
- Five new seafloor protection areas to preserve sensitive seafloor habitats by prohibiting bottom-contact fishing methods and other activities which harm the seafloor.
In addition, the legislation will extend two existing marine reserves: Cape Rodney – Okakari Point Marine Reserve (Goat Island) near Leigh and the Whanganui A Hei (Cathedral Cove) Marine Reserve on the Coromandel Peninsula.
Existing legislation allows for the establishment of the gold standard in marine protection - marine reserves - of which there are six in the Hauraki Gulf. Marine reserves are areas that are protected from the sea surface to the seafloor. They are strictly 'no take' areas, which include all marine life, shells, rocks, and driftwood. Scientific studies show this is by far the most effective type of marine protected area.
HIGH PROTECTION AREAS
The major instrument proposed in the Bill is the High Protection Areas, (marked with yellow boxes in map below). Like Marine Reserves, the proposed HPAs offer marine protection from the sea surface to the seafloor. They ban human activities that can affect the marine biodiversity of the area, including commercial and recreational fishing, the large-scale removal of non-living materials and the dumping and discharging of waste.
However, these areas differ from marine reserves in that they include built-in rights for Māori customary fishing practices. They will in effect become iwi-only fishing reserves.
It is well documented that the Hauraki Gulf is under serious stress. The ‘State of the Environment Report’, released in August, shows the marine park is experiencing continued ecological collapse. Overfishing and poor fishing practices are contributing to this threat. Scientific research shows that marine protection benefits increase when the areas are fully protected. No-take marine reserves (as under the Marine Reserves Act) are the most effective way to restore health and biodiversity.
Despite this knowledge, Māori customary fishing practices are to trump marine protection in HPAs
Under the proposed legislation customary practices such as customary fishing and seafood gathering will be allowed. The nature of these ‘customary practices’ are undefined and will evidently depend on how iwi authorities choose to exercise them. Iwi will have the power to manage customary fishing within their area, as long as it is undertaken in accordance with existing customary fishing regulations and aligns with conservation goals set by whānau, hapū, and iwi of the area in collaboration with the Department of Conservation. These goals will inform the development of regulations to manage all activities to align with conservation goals. There is no provision for local government to be involved, therefore the public living in and around the Hauraki Gulf will effectively be excluded from the process.
Furthermore, the Bill makes provision for recognising the rights and interests of Māori as provided for by the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011. The exercise of protected customary rights or rights held by a customary marine title group under that Act would not be affected. This would apply to both the High Protection Areas and the Seafloor Protection Areas. This too could have a detrimental impact on protection measures for the Gulf.
SEAFLOOR PROTECTION AREAS (SPAs)
The five new seafloor protection areas (marked with green boxes in the map below) will limit activities to preserve sensitive seafloor habitats. Bottom-contact fishing methods and other activities that harm the seafloor will be banned. People can use the water above the seafloor if they do not contact or affect the bottom of the sea. Fishing methods and activities that are not harmful to seafloor habitats, such as spear fishing and line fishing, are permitted. The Department of Conservation warns there may be additional restrictions in some of these areas.
Have your say on the Hauraki Gulf / Tīkapa Moana Marine Protection Bill
Fishing, ‘customary’ or otherwise, flies in the face of the proven benefits of no-take marine protection and undermines the credibility of stated conservation goals of the ‘Revitalising the Gulf’ initiative.
The closing date for submissions is 11.59pm on Wednesday, 01 November 2023
Submissions to the Environment Committee can be made on the Parliament website:
Advocates for protecting the Gulf disappointed bottom trawling won't be banned
Going against strong public opinion and scientific evidence showing bottom trawl methods destroy marine ecosystems and contribute to the decline of the Hauraki Gulf, Fisheries New Zealand has no plan to ban this destructive practice from the Gulf. Instead, the Government proposes to restrict the practice to new ‘bottom fishing access zones,’ also known as trawl corridors.
The regulation of bottom trawling is being done under the Fisheries Act. Four options are under consideration by Fisheries NZ, the details of which can found here: https://www.mpi.govt.nz/dmsdocument/58729-Discussion-document-Bottom-Fishing-Access-Zones-in-the-Hauraki-Gulf-Marine-Park
A map showing the 4 options is below:
‘Revitalising the Gulf’ – our Friends of the Hauraki Gulf submission' by Auckland Councillor Mike Lee