In a new report released today, the Environmental Defence Society (EDS) has called for a strengthening of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act 2000 to better protect the landscapes of the Hauraki Gulf Islands.
The report is one of a series of case studies EDS is undertaking as part of a broader investigation into landscape protection in New Zealand. EDS has already released case study reports on the Mackenzie Basin, Waitākere Ranges, and tourism.
Co-authored by EDS Policy Director Raewyn Peart and EDS Solicitor Cordelia Woodhouse, Protecting the Hauraki Gulf Islands examines the effectiveness of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act, current planning provisions and other approaches in protecting the landscapes of Waiheke Island, Aotea/Great Barrier Island and Rākino Island. It was funded by the Auckland Council.
“The Hauraki Gulf is a place of outstanding landscapes, rich indigenous biodiversity and spiritual importance to Māori,” said Ms Woodhouse.
“It is an area used by many to live and work, for recreation and for the sustenance of human health, wellbeing and spirit.
“Our research concluded that the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act is making little useful contribution to the protection of the island environments. This is due to its broad language and competing objectives.
“Waiheke Island has been subject to intense development pressures due to its growing population and high pre-Covid visitor numbers. We found the current planning provisions not up to the task, with the cumulative impacts of case-by-case consenting threatening ‘death by a thousand cuts’. In contrast, there is much less development pressure on Aotea/Great Barrier and Rākino islands,” said Ms Woodhouse
“More than half the land on Aotea/Great Barrier Island is managed by the Department of Conservation. Our research found a woeful lack of funding allocated to the island by the Department with biodiversity suffering as a result,” said Ms Peart.
“Rākino is pest free, but mainly covered in kikuyu grass. The island would benefit from stronger incentives for landowners to undertake indigenous replanting.
“Auckland Council is currently reviewing the district plan provisions applying to these islands for incorporation into the Auckland Unitary Plan. This is a great opportunity to sharpen up the planning approach.
“On these fragile island environments, land and sea are very closely connected. We have recommended the Council adopt an integrated planning approach, where a precinct plan is developed for each island, extending over the land and into the surrounding marine environment.
“This would enable marine protection to be considered in association with land use planning.
“Strengthening the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act and the planning provisions in the Auckland Unitary Plan, alongside better tourism management and greater funding for biodiversity protection, would go a long way towards protecting these unique island environments for future generations,” concluded Ms Peart.
The EDS report sets out a number of recommendations on how landscape management should be strengthened for the Hauraki Gulf Islands including:
The Hauraki Gulf Islands report is available here.