< October 2023 newsletter

New marine protection reserves not created equal for all

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.


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.


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:



Hauraki Gulf / Tīkapa Moana Marine Protection Bill

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



Go back to the October 2023 newsletter


Need help with submitting on Hauraki Gulf Marine Protection Bill?

We are aware there is a wide range of views on how to protect the Gulf, which is why we were hesitant to include a form submission for the Hauraki Gulf / Tīkapa Moana Marine Protection Bill.However, several people have asked for help. Accordingly, we have put together a simple submission, which you are welcome to use as a template for your own. Please click here to read. Continue reading

Submission on the Hauraki Gulf / Tīkapa Moana Marine Protection Bill

We have put together a simple submission on the Hauraki Gulf / Tīkapa Moana Marine Protection Bill, which you are welcome to use as a template for your own. Remember the final day for submissions is Wednesday 1 November. Continue reading

Marine protection secondary to ‘customary rights’

Although all looks well on the surface, it is well documented that the Hauraki Gulf is under stress. Sedimentation, pollution, overfishing, and poor fishing practices are all taking their toll on these beautiful waters. Marine mammals, fish and seabird species are dwindling in numbers. So, not before time, plans are underway to reverse this decline and revitalise the Gulf. However, the plan comes with a few fish hooks of its own. Continue reading

Co-governance advocates bully dissenter on Hauraki Gulf Forum

  Below is an email sent to members of the Gulf Users Group on 28 April 2022: I am writing to bring your attention to an attempt by the Hauraki Gulf Forum’s co-chairs to muzzle Auckland Councillor John Watson, a Forum member, after he shared on social media our NZ Herald advertisement. This advert named the five local body councillors who voted to introduce a new 50:50 co-governance arrangement with mana whenua and ‘others’ to manage the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. Furthermore, these five Councillors failed to seek a mandate from the public and ignored the concerns of thousands that had signed our petition or emailed Forum members. Continue reading

Hauraki Gulf Forum votes on co-governance proposal

Thank you to all who joined the action over at the Gulf Users Group by signing their petition or sending a message to the elected members of the Hauraki Gulf Forum asking them to vote down the proposal to introduce 50/50 co-governance to the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. According to the Group, nearly 14,000 people signed the petition in just three weeks, and 2,400 individual emails were sent. Great response! Continue reading

Blatant grab for power over the Gulf – again!

Currently, the Hauraki Gulf Forum is considering recommendations put forward for what is explained in a report as ‘updating and strengthening the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act’. Several major changes are being proposed. Continue reading

Have your say on Waiheke Island rāhui

The Ministry of Primary Industries is calling for public submissions on the Ngāti Pāoa imposed rāhui around Waiheke Island. The closing date for submissions is Monday 22 March 2021. The ban relates to the harvesting of four species of kaimoana - i.e. scallops, mussels, crayfish and pāua - the aim being to restore their declining numbers. Continue reading

Who is running this country? Ngāti Pāoa takes the law into its own hands

An iwi on Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf has decided that it is they who should be in control of kaimoana around the island. Without gaining the legal authority to do so, Ngāti Pāoa has declared a ban on the gathering of certain species around the entire coastline of Waiheke. Continue reading

Treaty settlements over the Waitemata and Manukau Harbours, and the Hauraki Gulf

There is a very real danger co-governance arrangements like the Tūpuna Maunga Authority are being considered for the Waitemata and Manukau Harbours, and the Hauraki Gulf. Continue reading

Sea Change Advisory Committee appointed

The Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage and the Minister of Fisheries Stuart Nash have selected the members of the ministerial advisory committee established to support the Government’s response to the Sea Change Tai Timu Tai Pari Marine Spatial Plan. The nine-person committee includes members with expertise in commercial and Māori fishing - including four mana whenua, fisheries management, environment, law and marine science. It will be co-chaired by Paul Majurey and Catherine Harland under a co-governance model. Continue reading

The battle for the control of the Hauraki Gulf

You may have read the article ‘Saving the Gulf: tradition holds key’ published in the NZ Herald on June 24 (copy below), which promotes the idea of ahu moana - 50:50 co-management arrangements between mana whenua and local communities covering the entire coastline of the Hauraki Gulf. Regrettably, the ahu moana proposals are not the only avenue being pursued for control of the Gulf. Communications consultant Fiona McKenzie, in her article ‘Who’s Protecting the Public Interest?’ warns us of that democratic governance of the Hauraki Gulf is being threatened on three fronts. Continue reading

Update on Sea Change - the Hauraki Gulf marine spatial plan

In last month’s DA Update, we reported that the Ministries of Conservation and Fisheries are in the process of setting up a Ministerial Advisory Committee, (MAC), the purpose of which is to “help shape the proposals, facilitate engagement with our Treaty Partners and stakeholders, and provide advice and report to the three Ministers – Environment, Conservation & Fisheries.” Continue reading

Invitation to hear Councillor Mike Lee speak on the Sea Change Plan

Democracy Action invites you to an address by Mike Lee – Waitemata and Gulf Ward Councillor on Auckland Council. Mike is very concerned about proposed threats to democracy as advocated in the Sea Change Hauraki Gulf Marine Spatial Plan. He outlined his concerns in an article first published in the Gulf News on 21 June, now available on Mike’s website HERE. Continue reading

October 2018 Bonus Edition

Several members who were unable to attend our special meeting on Sunday 7th October have requested a report on the ‘Sea Change versus democracy in the Hauraki Gulf’ presentation given by Auckland Councillor Mike Lee. Mike has been a local body representative in the Auckland region for over 26 years, having lived and worked in the Hauraki Gulf and Waitemata ward for most of his life. He was invited to address Democracy Action about the power play currently underway for the control of the Gulf. Continue reading

Hauraki Gulf Forum meeting - change of date and venue. Friday 8th February

Time: 2.00pm Venue: Room 1, Level 26, 135 Albert Street Auckland The Minister for Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta is to address the Forum. Public are welcome to attend. The agenda is available HERE. Continue reading

Sea Change Plan versus democracy in the Hauraki Gulf

Auckland Councillor Mike Lee speaks out on the high stakes power play over ownership and control of the Hauraki Gulf, in an article first published in the Gulf News on 21 June.  “The Hauraki Gulf belongs to all of us and should not be handed over to a non-democratic elite and their consultant advocates”, writes Mike. Read Mike’s excellent article HERE. Continue reading

Report on Hauraki Gulf Forum meeting, 19 February 2018

Before the meeting Janet waded through the agenda and the two main reports (by the Chair and acting CEO), which revealed three key and recurring items: They are 1. To enable Mana Whenua to have a greater role in the Hauraki Gulf Forum 2. To continue work towards the “New Governance Model” Continue reading