Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Hauraki Gulf park ban details known today

Critics say delay in announcement of pre-election plan indicates scheme has not been fully investigated
Rotoroa Island in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. Photo / Natalie Slade
Rotoroa Island in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. Photo / Natalie Slade

Details of a controversial new marine park for recreational fishing that will banish commercial operators from the inner Hauraki Gulf will be released today.

The parks, which will be a new concept created in a planned wider reform of marine protection legislation, will cover parts of the inner Hauraki Gulf and Marlborough Sounds.

Recreational fishers would still have to obey bag limits in the new parks, where most commercial fishing would be banned.

The Government expected to pay up to $20 million to compensate for the commercial quota loss in both areas, and would also have to engage with iwi on the plan.

Up to 21,000 recreational fishers take to the gulf on a typical summer's day. At present, some snapper, flounder, john dory, crayfish and kahawai are caught commercially within the inner Hauraki Gulf.

Details of the proposed scheme have been eagerly awaited since Prime Minister John Key announced the establishment of two marine parks for recreational fishing ahead of the last election.

A spokesman for Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy told the Herald that the recreational fishing parks in the Hauraki Gulf and Marlborough Sounds "will help create a better recreational fishing experience in these two popular areas ..."

National had initially said it hoped to publish a discussion paper in November 2014, and Labour has criticised the delay as evidence the scheme had not been properly investigated and was an "election campaign gimmick".

The party's fisheries spokesman Rino Tirikatene said any detail on the plan could well show that it was "riddled with exclusions and exceptions", such as allowing some species to be caught commercially and customary fishing, that would undermine the original promise.

Scott Macindoe, spokesman for LegaSea, an initiative of the NZ Sport Fishing Council, said the time for details to be released pointed to the policy being a populist election sweetener.

The fishing parks would exist within larger and fully exploited fish stock areas, and so were unlikely to grow the size of fish stocks, Mr Macindoe said.

Tim Pankhurst, chief executive of Seafood New Zealand, said the commercial fishing industry would be interested to see the details including any information on compensation to commercial fishers in the Hauraki.

The two species most affected would be snapper in the Hauraki Gulf and cod in the Marlborough Sounds. The inner Hauraki Gulf sits within Snapper 1 - the area from North Cape to East Cape, where the collision between commercial and recreational fishing interests is most fraught.

Evidence that the fishery was in trouble led to proposed cuts in 2013, which triggered protest and a Government backdown.

- NZ Herald

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