Wayne Thompson

Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Draft map of protected marine areas thrown out

Maui's dolphin. Photo / Glenn Jeffrey
Maui's dolphin. Photo / Glenn Jeffrey

A map dotted with marine protection areas for investigation will be wiped from the Auckland Plan after public protests about popular fishing spots being tagged without consultation.

However, Auckland Council's guide for 30 years' growth still leaves the door open to add to the Super City's five marine reserves - albeit with proof that a marine ecosystem is under stress.

A prime candidate is the rocky coastline from Manukau Heads to Muriwai - the habitat of the critically endangered Maui's dolphin.

Hauraki Gulf areas up for investigation include the waters around Little Barrier Island-Hauturu and the Mokohinau Islands.

Although council officers said the map showed only general targets, Rodney Ward councillor Penny Webster said their surprise appearance in the draft plan nearly caused a revolt.

Residents suspected a move to close the Hauraki Gulf to fishing.

Last week, the spots were removed by a resolution of the Auckland Plan Committee.

"We took the rings on the map off, because there was no consultation," said Mrs Webster. "I know it's a 30-year plan but I was concerned, as was [deputy mayor] Penny Hulse, that it appeared and people don't like these things put on them."

"Anything we do like that we have to do openly and in consultation - listen to not only marine scientists but also recreational and commercial fishers.

"A lot of people fish for their family food - it's not all wealthy people in flash boats out in Kawau Bay."

Hibiscus Coast and Bays Local Board chairwoman Julia Parfitt said she was relieved councillors had listened to submissions from the board and many others seeking a more "balanced" approach to marine protection.

"They didn't produce any scientific evidence - just blurry lipstick smudges on the map.

"We have a number of charter boat operators in Gulf Harbour and a lot of people who fish in small boats and appreciate being able to fish safely close to the shore."

Forest and Bird conservation manager Dr Mark Bellingham said that backing up the push for more protected areas with hard evidence will not be a problem.

He said the Department of Conservation had extensive fisheries information.

Research on threats to feeding areas for seabirds in the Hauraki Gulf was being collated by the society.

The council should have kept what was on the map and added areas to it which had been missed out, such as the seagrass beds of the Kaipara Harbour, which were a nursery for 98 per cent of snapper on the North Island west coast.

"The plan is a work in progress and is not locked in concrete for 30 years.

"It can be reviewed and changed as new information comes in."

Last year's poor report card on the health of the gulf shocked Auckland and Waikato political leaders.

They want a marine spatial plan for the gulf that will guide a more integrated management across use of land and sea and consideration for effects on marine habitats.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown wants the council to provide $400,000 in the long-term budget to get the ball rolling in a project shared with Waikato regional and territorial authorities.

It could be finished in two years and its results included in the region's statutory planning documents.

The beauty of a marine spatial plan compared with conventional marine management is said to be that agencies, industry interest groups and the public get a say in creating it.

But Mr Brown said Auckland was "a city of three harbours" - the Waitemata, in the Hauraki Gulf, and on the west coast, the Kaipara and the Manukau. All deserved spatial plans.

Government agencies estimate that 19.5 per cent of New Zealand's population go fishing, meaning 250,000 Aucklanders take part.

PLAN GOALS

* Protect significant and fragile areas on east and west coasts.
* Preserve 195 fish species, and the critically endangered Maui's dolphin.
* Safeguard coastal and migratory birds breeding areas.
* Consider effects of activities on coast, harbours and estuaries.
* Public to get a say on future protected areas.

- NZ Herald

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