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Gulf marine protection needs to proceed urgently

31 October 2022

EDS has lodged its submission on marine protection proposals for the Hauraki Gulf. The Department of Conservation proposals are to establish 12 High Protection Areas (HPAs), 5 Seafloor Protection Areas (SPAs) and 2 HPAs or marine reserves as extensions to the Whanganui-a-Hei (Cathedral Cove) and Cape Rodney-Okakari Point marine reserves. The areas are to be created through a Hauraki Gulf Marine Protection Bill.

“These proposals have been a long time coming and are urgently needed”, says EDS Policy Director Raewyn Peart.

“The Gulf has been experiencing long-term declines in biodiversity, depletion of taonga species and loss of important benthic habitat. Scallop and cockle beds have collapsed, kina barrens are expanding and the Gulf’s seabirds are even more threatened.

“On top of this are damaging marine heatwaves which have been hitting the Gulf each summer and these will almost certainly increase in a climate warming world.

“The Hauraki Gulf Marine Park was established in 2000 to protect the international and national significance of the area in perpetuity. But such protection has not materialised with only 0.3% of the Park protected by marine reserves. This situation is becoming critical and we need to start looking after the area before it is too late.

“The 2016 Sea Change Tai Timu Tai Pari Plan set out a roadmap to address the Gulf’s decline, including the establishment of 13 new marine protected areas and extensions to two marine reserves. DOC’s proposals are largely based on these with some small adjustments.

“The Sea Change Plan was developed through a partnership between mana whenua and statutory agencies, and with the close involvement of all stakeholder groups with an interest in the Gulf, who collectively agreed to the Plan.

“It is clear from surveys that the public strongly favour marine protection and an economic analysis commissioned by DOC demonstrates that any impacts of the proposals on recreational and commercial fishers will be small.

“The areas to be protected are all ecologically important in their own right, but collectively they will help restore the overall productivity of the Gulf, including enhancing fish production. In that way everyone will benefit.

“These proposals are not only urgent, it is essential they proceed”, concluded Ms Peart.

Read the EDS submission here