On 20 May, the Hauraki Gulf Forum, the statutory body tasked with progressing integrated management of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, recommended two significant goals for the important and much-loved marine park.
Consistent with its strategic issues, the forum voted to recommend two aspirational long-term goals for the 12,000-square-kilometre marine park:
That at least 20 per cent of the waters be protected
That restoration efforts establish 1000 km2 of shellfish-beds and reefs.
“Bold action is required to stem continued ecological decline below the waterline,” said forum chair John Meeuwsen.
“If implemented, the goals we have recommended today will help reverse that decline and deliver broad benefits.”
Mr Meeuwsen added that protection could take many forms, including no-take marine reserves, restrictions on fishing methods, and rāhui, among others.
Next year is the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, and with large events like the America’s Cup, Te Matatini and APEC coming to Auckland in 2021, Mr Meeuwsen says that the time is ripe for all communities of the Hauraki Gulf to come together and commit to action.
“At present only a tiny percentage, 0.3 per cent, of the marine park is covered by ‘no-take’ marine reserves and we need to dramatically lift our collective ambition.”
“The mauri / life-force of Tīkapa Moana / Hauraki Gulf is under threat,” says deputy chair Moana Tamaariki-Pohe.
“We know that marine ecosystems are remarkably resilient if given a chance to recover, and we must give them that chance. Inaction is not an option.”
Mr Meeuwsen says that it is the work of regulators like central, regional and local government, working in partnership with mana whenua and the communities of the gulf, to ultimately implement the forum’s recommendations.
“The forum is not an implementing body,” says Mr Meeuwsen. “While our recommendations are not binding, they do carry political weight. It will be up to the forum’s members, and other stakeholders, to act on the recommendations and implement them.”
At its next meeting in August the forum will consider a paper regarding further elaboration of those aspirational goals and the next steps involved in achieving them.
The Haruaki Gulf Forum’s 2019 conference will be held on 27 August at Auckland’s War Memorial Museum and will focus on the two goals recommended at today’s meeting.