As mentioned recently, the so-called collaborative stakeholders' group has recently released their Sea Change report and the Waikato Regional Council, where it involves them, is now looking at implementing its recommendations.
If the Healthy Rivers approach to this had been adopted, then where Sea Change recommendations affect the Regional Council there would not have been any further consultation about it at all, apart from what appears in the Councils LTP and coming reviews of its Coastal and Regional Plans.
However, a motion was passed at WRC's meeting on December 16 asking that the Sea Change report be sent to the TCDC and all other district councils affected by the Sea Change recommendations, asking for their comments about it before any decisions are made.
Bear in mind that the Stakeholders' Report makes it very clear that their proposals are not up for debate - they claim it is "an integrated package that must be implemented as a whole," presumably because the integrity of the "give and take" of their collaborative effort will be lost if changes are made.
However, I do not believe this "collaborative stakeholders approach" in any way constitutes an acceptable consultation process allowing for future decisions - it was made up of self-appointed members of the community representing special interest groups prepared to get what they individually wanted by trading off things of general community interest when they had no mandate to do so.
For the Eastern Seaboard communities, there are issues in this document that need close scrutiny and assessment. For example:
• There is a proposal to extend the size of the Cathedral Cove marine reserve as a "type one Marine Protected Area" or MPA (the highest level of protection recommended it is claimed), but at the same time allow iwi to take a "cultural harvest" from this and other similarly classified reserves.
Three others would be established, the closest to us at the tip of the Coromandel Peninsula. However, the question must be asked if the Cathedral Cove Marine Reserve under this proposal would actually be a Marine Reserve at all, or simply the best fishing area in the Coromandel Peninsula being taken over by iwi for their own exclusive use.
• There is a proposal to have Type 3 Special Management Area or SMA around the Alderman Islands. SMAs are similar to MPAs except they allow for "carefully managed and targeted sport fishing of several species under a 'small volume, high value' harvest regime".
I believe that an exclusive cultural harvest of all species will also be allowed in this area effectively excluding all non-Maori from taking all ground fish, paua and crayfish etc. and creating similar issues of fairness to the Cathedral Cove situation.
• There is a proposal to declare all of the East Coast a kilometre out from the coast from just north of Waihi to the tip of the Coromandel a Type 4 Ahu moana - mana whenua and community co-management area which will allow for commercial and recreational fishing subject to "the prohibition of fishing or particular harvest methods, or the temporary closure of areas to allow for species or habitat restoration".
This will be determined by an appointed committee with 50 per cent iwi and 50 per cent community membership.
However, that community membership is likely to be determined completely outside of District Council or genuine Community control and likely to be constituted, to some degree, by members sympathetic to iwi who will start with a 50 per cent block vote.
• There is a proposal to have a fin fish farming zone roughly beside the area of Castle Rock.
There are serious environmental issues around fin fish farming and so far as I am aware, this area has not been subjected to any studies of suitability.
In my opinion, these concepts require wide dissemination around the Peninsula, and the Mercury Bay and Whangamata/ Tairua/ Pauanui Community Boards need to provide comment or even undertake their own community consultation jointly to pass on to the WRC and the other statutory bodies involved.
I have provided this assessment to the four TCDC District Councillors representing the Eastern Seaboard wards to allow for whatever consultation they deem appropriate.
I have done this because I would not be happy to make any decision about implementation until knowing exactly how the general community feels about this - something best achieved at the District Council level through the use of Community Boards.
I am not anti-iwi - I believe they deserve a fair go and that a lot still needs to be done to help them get back on their feet.
But in my opinion the 'collaborative' approach in this instance failed because on the pakeha side the participants had scant negotiation skills and were taken for a ride by some very astute Maori thinkers.
However, I am happy to support all the Sea Change proposals if that is what people actually want.
- Dal Minogue, WRC Councillor for the Thames Coromandel ward.