People are being asked whether a more consistent regulatory framework is needed to help stop the spread of marine pests across New Zealand's four busiest boating regions.
For several years, the Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Auckland and Northland regions – alongside Biosecurity New Zealand and boaties from all over – have been working together to stop the spread of unwanted marine pests like Mediterranean fanworm hitchhiking on vessel hulls.
Waikato Regional Council's integrated catchment services manager Patrick Whaley said while Biosecurity New Zealand managed national rules to minimise the risk of new pest species arriving on vessels from overseas, the regulations for vessels moving around within coastal waters varied from region to region.
"Given our four northern-most regional councils - Northland, Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty Toi Moana - are also collectively home to the country's biggest boating populations, we think a consistent regulatory approach to managing marine pests is worth considering," he said.
Whaley said New Zealand's coastline and rich, diverse marine life had long been at the heart of the country's shared national identity but as the population and an associated increase in boat movements grew, so too did the risks of marine pest spread.
"These pests threaten our incredible coastal playground and its underwater life, including kaimoana. They also pose considerable risks to our tourism and aquaculture industries."
Whaley said there were a number of potential options to consider, ranging from a requirement for a clean hull at all times, only when moving or only when moving to specially identified places.
"If new rules were to be proposed, agencies would also need to consider implementation implications, such as roles and responsibilities, where costs should lie and how these should be funded."
Whaley said the four northern councils wanted to hear what their respective local communities thought before advancing the initiative.
"We'd like to encourage as many people as possible to take this opportunity to have a say on a local authority issue that traverses several regions."
A discussion document outlining the different options, including pros and cons for each, along with the opportunity to give feedback is available at www.bionet.nz.
The two-month feedback period runs from today until May 24.
Whaley said all feedback would be reported to each of the four councils about mid-2019 and this would guide future decisions on whether a consistent regulatory framework should be developed.
"Before going down that road, any changes would need to be agreed to by each council and would follow a formal public consultation process."
For background information about marine biosecurity, visit the Ministry for Primary Industries' Marine Biosecurity Porthole at www.marinebiosecurity.org.nz.