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.
Please see below a summary of the most important points Mike made, which I trust does justice to the essence of his presentation.
Mike opened his address with the arrival of Captain Cook to these shores, 250 years ago next year. He quoted a passage from a Joseph Bank’s journal, which described an incident whereby Tahitian born translator, Tupaia, in answer to a challenge by Maori, said “ While we are at sea, you have no manner of business with us. The sea is as much our property as it is yours”.
Mike referred to this quote as the nub of his presentation.
Mike went on to talk about more recent history, such as the establishment of the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park in 1967, which was followed by the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park in the year 2000. The Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act had broad but not unanimous support - for instance the Mayors of Auckland and Maori politicians were not keen. “The legislation that came out was somewhat a compromise, and never quite complete, in my view” Mike said.
Under this Act the Hauraki Gulf Forum was established to promote and facilitate the integrated management and the protection and enhancement of the Hauraki Gulf. Mike Lee is one of the Auckland Council representatives on this body. Membership of the Forum is a collection of:
- 13 elected representatives of Auckland Council, Waikato Regional Council, Thames-Coromandel, Hauraki, Waikato and Matamata-Piako District Councils, which have statutory responsibilities for the coastal marine area of the Hauraki Gulf;
- three ministerial representatives of DOC, MPI, and Maori Affairs; and
- six iwi representatives.
In Mike’s view the Forum has not been that successful. “There has not been a full-hearted attitude from the powers that be to really make the Marine Park work”.
After setting the scene historically, Mike brought us up to date with information about the ‘Sea Change’ Marine Spatial Plan, and the push for co-governance of the Hauraki Gulf. In answer to questions from the audience, he also briefly touched on the Maunga Authority, the Auckland Plan, the political situation, and advice on what we can do about issues of concern.
Please see below a list of key points Mike made relating to each of the issues:
The Hauraki Gulf Marine Spatial Plan - ‘Sea Change’
- In 2012, Sea Change came about after NGOs, especially the Environmental Defence Society, lobbied for a marine spatial plan. It was sold as a means of fixing environmental problems.
- Despite the Hauraki Gulf Forum being tailor-made to oversee the creation of a marine spatial plan, it was not wanted. Iwi representatives inside the Forum led a strong battle to exclude the Forum from having oversight of the plan.
- Instead they pushed for a steering group made up of a 50/50 co-governance body, membership made up of eight iwi representatives, and eight other people representing all the rest.
- Mike remarked that the people of Waiheke were largely shut out.
- It became obvious early on that the people driving this project had no appreciation of, and no interest in working within the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act.
- The plan took nearly four years to produce, made public early 2017.
- Mike said there are worthy things in the plan, but one of the key recommendations is about co governance. “So, the body that started the process was like, start the way you intend to go on, which was why they were so fiercely opposed to the Forum. Even though the Forum has very good Maori representation, it wasn’t good enough – they wanted it 50/50 representation - and then you get the chair”.
- In terms of the environmental and the marine reserve approach, the plan is weak.
- Four types of marine protected areas are recommended. Mike highlighted two of these:
- No take reserves, except for iwi cultural harvesting rights, with a 25-year review.
- Ahu Moana reserves. Mike said this is the main change being pushed. These reserves are quite a radical concept, covering 2,550 sq. kms - the entire coastline of the Gulf, around every island and every marine reserve, out to one km from the coastline. It is proposed that this area is to be governed by local iwi and the local communities in 50/50 co-governance arrangements.
- The Environmental Defence Society - particularly Raewyn Peart - are campaigning for the Hauraki Gulf Forum to be transformed into a governing body along racial lines.
- Currently there is a lot of lobbying going on through the government, and agencies such as Forest & Bird, pushing the Sea Change co-governance line.
- In relation to the plan, Mike said: “A lot of the stuff requires legislation changes, almost, in my view constitutional changes.”
- Mike is concerned that the new government ministers, who are inexperienced and very politically correct, may be easily swayed.
- He urged us to voice our concerns to our own MPs.
The Hauraki Gulf Forum
- There is a campaign underway to transform the Hauraki Gulf Forum from a consultative, integrating body to a smaller governing body based on the 50/50 co-governance model, consisting of iwi and others.
- Last year, authors of the Hauraki Gulf Forum Governance Review, Paul Beverley and the Chief Executive of the Waikato Regional Authority, appeared before the Forum urging that it agree to reform itself on racial ‘co-governance’ lines. It was at this point that Waiheke’s Paul Walden intervened to move a procedural motion, reminding the Forum that before supporting any recommendations to change the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, Forum members must consult with their parent agencies and the general public. Mike commented that the move by those pushing for co-governance was a ‘try on’, and that they must know it is not lawful for the Forum to change itself. He added that they also had a lot of influence over the previous Forum Chair, John Tregidga.
- Since this meeting there have been several changes to the membership of the Forum, including a new Chair and deputy chair. One notable addition has been the Mayor of Thames-Coromandel District Council, Sandra Goudie, who is very forceful in articulating the democratic, public interest approach.
- Mike suspects this push for co governance is being used as a way of levering Treaty settlements with the aim of giving iwi control over large areas of the Gulf.
- Mike believes councils need to get behind the Forum and take it seriously.
- Mike thanked Democracy Action for being a public watchdog. He said the members of the Hauraki Gulf Forum find it helpful and encouraging to see our presence at the meetings of the Forum.
In answer to questions from the audience, he also made some points regarding the following issues:
The Auckland Plan 2050
- Although supposedly only a review of the original Auckland Plan, (which was adopted in 2012), the current version has changed fundamentally in comparison to the original.
- The new version emphasises race-based provisions in favour of the people who claim mana whenua status over Auckland.
Mike added that council officers are extremely sensitive to iwi demands, not so sensitive in terms of democracy or the public interest.
The Maunga Authority
- The Maunga Authority is the outcome of Maori politics.
- Doug Graham facilitated the deal, somewhat naively according to Mike, whereby most of the maunga of Auckland are now owned by an iwi collective, and administered by a co- governance body.
- The Maori members on this co-governance body have most of the say so.
- Funding comes from the ratepayers. Mike added that “Lots more money is now being spent”.
- Mike recommended anyone who has a complaint over the upkeep of the maunga to get in touch with the Authority, and to email Mike and he’ll take it up.
Mike urged us all to talk to our own MPs about our concerns
Mike continued with a warning to be aware of the quasi reforms that are undermining democratic governance in New Zealand. He also expressed the following observations:
- The people leading iwi seem to be engaging in transitional demands tactics, and it is working. They are working through a strategy and are achieving things.
- The pendulum has swung to quite an extreme level, and wonders whether the changes will ever be undoable without civil discord and division.
- Things have got out of balance. “I do worry about the consequences.” Mike wonders what kind of world we are leaving for our children and grandchildren.
- Where Pakeha New Zealanders have been weak is that they have not been much interested in our history. This lack of knowledge disarms them in terms of these debates.
- Mike believes that the government are/have been extremely naive about Treaty settlements. There are two conflicting concepts as to what ‘settlement’ means. While the Crown thinks that a settlement means the matter is done and dusted, it will not work out that way. Modern Maori see things differently - they believe a Treaty settlement is not the end, it is just the beginning – they have their money but want more - they want to be running the country, basically.
“But what can we do?” Mike’s advice included the following:
- Maybe it’s time to for a different approach, to make this work better in a non-racial way – without avoiding or disrespecting traditional Maori rights.
- The left wing/right wing concept is passed its use by date. When making decisions we must set such politics aside and ask the following questions:
- Is this democratic?
- Is this in the public interest?
- Is this in the national interest?
- Is this in the interest of us, our children our grandchildren? What kind of world are we leaving for them?
- If we want to have more balance, we must be strategic ourselves. Mike suggested we work on issues on which we are well informed, know that the public would be on our side, and would be in the best interests of everyone, including Maori – like standing our ground on the Hauraki Gulf.
Mike concluded by urging us to speak out for democracy, and call out the attempt to undermine democracy and the public interest and public rights over the Hauraki Gulf.
Peter, on behalf of Democracy Action, expressed our gratitude to Mike for the time and effort he took to share his thoughts with us, which he did in a very frank and interesting manner.
Judging from the comments made by those who attended, everyone appeared to be very pleased they had come along to hear what Mike had to say, and were very impressed by the depth of his knowledge and understanding of the issues we face.
FYI, please see a copy of Mike’s article ‘Sea Change versus democracy in the Hauraki Gulf’ HERE.
If you have any questions, please contact us at: [email protected]