Kiwis want to protect and restore the Hauraki Gulf – not trawl it

By Andy Kenworthy

A new poll shows huge public support for measures to protect and restore Tīkapa Moana, Te Moananui-ā-Toi. SBN is joining calls to finally ban trawling and dredging from the marine park.

The survey of attitudes around this iconic stretch of water was commissioned by the Hauraki Gulf Forum.  It revealed that 84% of those surveyed support planting all waterways leading into the Gulf, re-establishing lost shellfish-beds and reefs and banning dredging and bottom-trawling. Around three quarters of those asked support making 30% of the Park marine protected areas and banning marine dumping. Two thirds support the use of customary practices such as rāhui and joint mana whenua and community co-managed Ahu Moana areas.

Pippa Coom is Hauraki Gulf Forum Co-Chair. She said: “The numbers are off the charts. [They] represent a massive swing in favour of strong, ambitious action.”

The Hauraki Gulf Marine Park was established in 2000. It covers more than 1.2 million hectares of sea, including more than 50 islands. The park was established to achieve “integrated management” of the area. It included the establishment of the Hauraki Gulf Forum. Its role is to facilitate coordination and recognition of the special relationship tangata whenua have with the Gulf.

But successive State of our Gulf reports from the Forum have detailed the areas’ continued decline and degradation. Decades of destructive fishing methods have reduced estimated fish numbers to half what they were in 1925. Vast areas of seabed have been denuded of life. Dredging and trawling have left vast underwater wastelands. Only about 14% of the historic trevally population survives. 17% of the snapper. 14% of the sharks. 3% of the dolphins.

Change is underway. The Forum has been re-invigorated. The draft Hauraki Gulf Fisheries Plan has been created. It’s part of the Government’s proposed measures for “Revitalising the Gulf”. But the current proposals allow bottom trawling in as yet undefined ‘trawl corridors’. It suggests the existing scallop dredging can continue.

SBN founder and CEO Rachel Brown is joining the Forum, and public opinion, in calling for this to be ruled out.

“We’ve had decades of neglect in Auckland’s big blue backyard,” she says. “It’s clear that most people agree it’s way past time for the Government to step up. Tikapa Moana was once a natural taonga to rival the Great Barrier Reef. Its current condition is a national disgrace.”

SBN is currently rounding off an initial three year programme of work in the Gulf with financial support from Foundation North. This has tackled sediment, plastic and heavy metal pollution. It’s also worked to create more space for a Te ao Māori-basis for relationships with the awa.

“One of the most exciting things we’ve seen is that business concern and appetite for action mirrors the aspirations captured in this survey,” says Rachel.

SBN is now working closely with the Forum, the Department of Conservation, Auckland Council and others to ramp up action.  This includes the Network’s Million Metres Streams Project. This is now in its seventh year. It has supported 14 waterway planting projects to restore 21.6 kilometres of waterway in the Gulf catchment with more than 45,000 native plants and trees. The Network is also managing a $5million investment from the Government’s Jobs for Nature Programme administered by the Department of Conservation. This is providing short term paid employment to jump start work and careers around waterway and landscape restoration.

Most recently SBN has secured a further $1million from the Fund to help kick start work on the ground in The Te Whakaoranga o te Puhinui Strategy. This is led by Waiohua Iwi, Eke Panuku and Healthy Waters. It’s supported by Auckland Council, The Southern Initiative, Manurewa and Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Boards and Kāinga Ora. This aims to restore the mauri of both the Puhinui Stream catchment and its people, providing a model of positive flow on effects for the Gulf.