Progress Toward Marine Spatial Plan for the Hauraki Gulf

Hauraki Gulf

Kawau Island – Hauraki Gulf

Following the official  launch of “Sea Change”, the Marine Spatial Planning process proposed for the Hauraki Gulf, at the Hauraki Gulf Forum seminar at the Auckland Museum on 9th September 2013, further progress has been made.

A meeting at the Auckland Museum on Friday 11th October collected a very diverse group of marine-oriented individuals and organizations together in one room.  There were roughly 200 people there.  The day was focused mainly on getting started on procedures to end up with who is on the Stakeholder Working Group, which is really the grass-roots part of the project where individuals and groups effectively produce the plan.

The Stakeholder Working Group will consist of members representing different interests in the Gulf, including iwi, recreational fishing and boating, environmental and community, aquaculture, fishing, shipping and tourism.  The selection process for this was what the meeting was all about.  There will be another meeting in November to further refine the selection and get it down to between about 12 and 20 representatives.

Parallel with that group is the Project Steering Group, comprised of representatives from mana whenua and participating government agencies – Hauraki Gulf Forum, Auckland Council, Waikato Regional Council, Department of Conservation, Ministry of Primary Industries and Territorial Authorities.  This group will guide the Sea Change project and ultimately recommend the plan to relevant councils and agencies for implementation through their statutory processes. Of the 16 spaces on the Project Steering Group, 8 are taken by mana whenua representatives.

One of the Project Steering Group’s functions is to challenge the outcomes of the Stakeholder Working Group.  So any positive outcomes from the SWG in terms of marine conservation, which will be hard to get through in the first instance, will be further challenged in the PSG!  So realistically serious progress on marine conservation is likely to be very difficult, despite the positive rhetoric flying around based on the serious problems shown up in the State of Our Gulf report of 2011.  I think the discussion will have to be brought back frequently to the question of “do we really want to arrest the decline and make positive progress toward recovery?”  Business as usual will not achieve that.

The Sea Change project is our best chance to establish a representative network of no-take marine protected areas covering at least 10% of the Territorial Sea, as mandated in the Government’s Biodiversity Strategy 2000.  At present we have six marine reserves in the HGMP which total only 0.3% of the area of the Park.  A good network of marine reserves is a crucial part of recovery, and would ultimately be the yardstick against which we can measure progress on recovery in the rest of the Park.  The reserves need to represent all habitats, and be of sufficient size to function properly.

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