Keep Our Beaches is renewing its fight over plans for marine reserves on the northern coast of Waiheke.
Group representative Deb Cox, from Sandy Bay, says that Waiheke Local Board’s plans for marine reserves “fly in the face” of the 2639 people who signed a petition opposing marine reserves between Oneroa and Onetangi.
Parliament’s Local Government and Environment Committee has considered the petition presented by Keep Our Beaches in 2014 and information presented by the local board and Friends of the Hauraki Gulf last year.
The committee noted the “passionate feelings” of Waiheke residents and holiday home owners about marine reserves, but it decided against any central government intervention on the issue.
Keep Our Beaches spokesperson Andrew Barclay, who lives in Auckland but is building a new holiday home at Palm Beach, spoke out at a meeting held by the local board last week to discuss plans for marine reserves.
“The board is missing the obvious point, which is that people prefer marine reserves when they are not in residential areas.
“Pretending friction doesn’t exist is only going to divert energy into objection,”
said Mr Barclay, who was the New Zealand chief executive of global bank Goldman Sachs and now works as an “international consultant”.
He told the local board its submission to the government on its proposed Marine Protected Areas Act lacked tactical discernment, because it calls for reserves on the contentious northern coast of Waiheke and rejects the government’s plan for a recreational fishing park in the Hauraki Gulf.
“The Crown has said it all in saying it will buy back quota or compensate commercial fishers to move out of the gulf. That will have some positive impact on the [snapper] biomass.
“We get to these goals incrementally and for the local board to reject that and say it doesn’t work shows a lack of good faith engagement with what the Crown is trying to achieve.
“I would urge you to not look a gift horse in the mouth and accept that and move forward,” said Mr Barclay.
At last Wednesday’s meeting, spear fisherman Andre Apel raised concerns that if all the marine reserves proposed by the local board were established fishing would only be allowed at Oneroa and Onetangi on the northern coast.
Fishing would also be possible from the southern headland at Matiatia to Anzac Bay, around most of the eastern coastline, and from a few kilometres offshore, if all the planned reserves were set up.
“I can see a problem with blocking off [for fishing] the areas that are easy access,” said Mr Apel.
Local board member Becs Ballard noted that the board is not expecting that all the marine reserves mapped out in its submission on the government’s proposed Marine Protected Areas Act will be accepted.
However, the board is concerned that the government’s plans for a recreational fishing park in the gulf could make it harder to establish marine reserves that the community has spent years planning.
Matt von Sturmer, who runs a salt water fly fishing business on Waiheke, won a round of applause from some at the meeting when he declared that “taking fish ain’t bad”.
However, others at the meeting, such as Thomas Greve, who helped win the case against a marina at Matiatia, suggested that conversations about Waiheke’s marine environment should begin with the assumption of a total ban on fishing.
“We should remember just how bad things are out there. We have passed a tipping point and we need to make sure we don’t allow commercial or recreational fisheries to go even further.
“If we allow a reserve to rebuild uninterrupted over 10 to 12 years, the results are incredible,” said Mr Greve.
Friends of the Hauraki Gulf spokesperson Alex Stone argued that a recreational fishing park in the gulf would privilege one group of people, when there are “myriad ways of enjoying the gulf”, such as snorkelling and diving.
Local board member Shirin Brown said further action needed to be taken soon to gather interested parties, sort out differences, and progress plans for marine reserves.
“Let’s get on with it,” she said. • Rose Davis
Clash over proposed marine reserves
Waiheke Local Board chairperson Paul Walden acknowledges the tension surrounding the board proposing 12 new marine reserves around Waiheke and neighbouring islands.
“There is some contention around this discussion. We’re talking about the commons – it’s something we’re all interested in,” he said, while opening a special meeting last week to discuss the local board’s submission on the government’s proposed Marine Protected Areas Act.
The local board was “surprised” when the government recently proposed a recreational fishing park in the Hauraki Gulf that would allow some commercial fishing of less popular species, but does not include any marine reserves, said Mr Walden.
Sea Change is working on a marine spatial plan for the gulf and marine biologist Roger Grace has submitted plans for marine reserves around Waiheke to the Sea Change group.
The local board and trusts for other islands in the gulf have also discussed plans for marine reserves with Sea Change and the Hauraki Gulf Forum.
“We don’t support the proposal for a recreational fishing park in the Hauraki gulf.
“We’re downloading to central government all the marine reserve proposals which are in play in our local board area.
“Our submission says ‘hold this space open, we’re wanting to continue this conversation on marine reserves here’,” he said.
In its submission, the board outlines plans for seven new marine reserves around Waiheke and five reserves around neighbouring islands.
The board’ submission includes:
– a marine reserve from the southern headland at Matiatia to the western headland before Oneroa beach that would extend three kilometres out to sea
– a marine reserve at Little Oneroa from Puriri Road to Fisherman’s Rock; a reserve 20 metres from the shore from Fisherman’s Rock to the western headland before Palm Beach, but including Enclosure Bay
– a marine reserve at Anzac Bay from the end of Wharf Road to the eastern end of Okoka Bay
– a marine reserve from Te Whau peninsula to the eastern headland past Whakanewha Regional Park
– a set net ban at the eastern point of Waiheke, from Hooks Bay to Man O’ War Bay, where spotted shags retain one of the last colonies in the Auckland region.
Marine biologist Roger Grace has submitted plans for marine reserves:
– from Fisherman’s Rock to the western headland at Onetangi
– from the eastern headland past Onetangi beach to Thumb Point on the north-eastern tip of the island.
Dr Grace also proposes that the sea floor should be protected from dredging and other disturbance in a proposed benthic protection area from Te Whau point to the western headland at Awaawaroa Bay, that could extend as far south as Beachlands in Auckland.
Mr Walden says the board has put Dr Grace’s plans forward, although they could be too controversial to be accepted by the community.
Marine reserves have also been proposed for the ocean surrounding Rotoroa, Motuihe, The Noises, and for areas off the eastern coast of Motutapu and on the northern coast of Rangitoto and Motutapu.
The new reserves and other protected areas would cover about 127 square kilometres or 10.5% of the maritime area within the local board’s limits. • Rose Davis