Changes at Sea for the Hauraki Gulf

by Des Casey

A collective body will "ensure the Gulf's health and sustainability.

Things might be on the way up for the health of the sea in the Hauraki Gulf. A new multi-party project aimed at better protecting the health and productivity of the Hauraki Gulf (Tikapa Moana/Te Moananui a Toi) has been launched in Auckland. A two-year project named Sea Change, involving the development of a Hauraki Gulf Marine Spatial Plan, is a partnership involving mana whenua and the statutory agencies of Auckland Council, Waikato Regional Council, the Hauraki Gulf Forum, the Department of Conservation and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

The Sea Change plan, which is to be delivered in 2016, will pin-point the various problems afflicting the 1.2 million hectare Hauraki Gulf Marine Park and look to solutions. Emphasis will be a safeguarding of the Gulf’s cultural, environmental, social and economic values. Co-chairs of Sea Change’s steering group, Paul Majurey representing mana whenua, and Penny Webster of Auckland Council report that the partners are committed to better safeguard the Gulf’s health and its sustainability.

They state how the Hauraki Gulf “is an extremely precious taonga, highly valued by all people for a wide range of cultural, environmental, social and economic reasons. For example, it is heavily used for recreation and generates more than $2.7 billion in economic activity each year.” However all is not well in the Gulf. They go on to say that its health “is deteriorating in a variety of ways due to various pressures on its use and land use in areas near the coast. Sea Change, the first project of its kind in New Zealand, will identify what we need to do to better safeguard its future.”

Waikato Regional Council chairman, Peter Buckley, acknowledged that their own problems relating to the Gulf are too big to be working in isolation, and that joint solutions need to be made. Hauraki Gulf Forum chair, John Tregidga, recognises that both “issues and opportunities are not being addressed through traditional policy and planning approaches”.

Sea Change states that it will ensure the public has a say over the plan’s development, and that this input will be sought from the middle of next year. In the meantime the partners will oversee the plan and consider what changes might be necessary to achieve the central goals of ensuring the Hauraki Gulf’s health and sustainability.
Big numbers attended two Sea Change forums in Auckland and Thames during October. These were a mix of different people and groups that included conservationists, industry groups and members of a variety of organisations. A next step will be the formation of a Stakeholder Working Group which will set its sights on Sea Change’s purpose.

Chair of Sea Change’s board, Dr Roger Blakely, sums up:
“Sea Change ….. will identify what is needed to better safeguard its (the Gulf’s) future. Ultimately, it’s about securing a healthy, productive and sustainable resource for all users”