Crucial next step in efforts to restore Tīkapa Moana

Cape Rodney Rocks
© Piotr Zurek
Press Release

WWF-New Zealand welcomes the recommendation of the Environment Select Committee to pass special legislation to turn the tide on nature loss in Tīkapa Moana/the Hauraki Gulf through the creation of new marine protected areas (MPAs).

Tīkapa Moana is the heart of Tāmaki Makaurau and an important cultural, recreational, and economic hub for Aotearoa. It is a biodiversity hotspot on the doorstep of our largest city - once home to an immense array of native species, and a critical source of sustenance.

“The rapidly declining state of the Hauraki Gulf is of grave concern. Overfishing, habitat loss, pollution, sedimentation, and the effects of poorly planned urban development have led to a 57% decline in key fish stocks, a 67% decline in seabirds, and a 97% decline in whales and dolphins. Snapper and crayfish populations are functionally extinct in some areas,” says Dr Kayla Kingdon-Bebb, WWF-New Zealand CEO.

“This place is central to who we are, and we need to take better care of it. It’s great to finally see progress towards changes that have been desperately needed for so long,” continues Kingdon-Bebb. 

MPAs are not only an essential tool to protect and restore our marine environment, but they also benefit the communities and industries that rely on these areas for their livelihoods.

“We know that setting aside areas to protect and sustain our native species and their habitats is necessary for the health and wellbeing of people and nature. Currently, less than 1% of New Zealand’s ocean territory is protected. This is a travesty for a country that depends so strongly on the ocean and its resources. MPAs allow marine habitats and the creatures that rely upon them to recover and thrive. It is well established that creating MPAs yields benefits for nature, for commercial and recreational fishers, and others - such as tourism operators,” says Dr Kingdon-Bebb.

The marine protection proposals in Hauraki Gulf/Tīkapa Moana Marine Protection Bill are the product of compromise and the cross-community consensus reached through the Sea Change process. WWF-New Zealand has long advocated for the mana and integrity of that process to be upheld, and we are pleased the Committee has unanimously recommended no changes to the proposed protected areas.

WWF-New Zealand particularly welcomes the inclusion of customary practices in the 12 new High Protected Areas confirmed for the Hauraki Gulf. “It is critical and increasingly urgent that our out-of-date marine management toolkit is updated through a process of legislative reform to recognise tikanga-based, Treaty-consistent approaches such as rāhui,” says Dr Kingdon-Bebb.

With so many overlapping interests in Tīkapa Moana/the Hauraki Gulf, advancing new marine protection in the region illustrates that protecting 30% of our ocean territory is a realistic goal. “If we can achieve significant new marine protection on Auckland’s doorstep, it is possible throughout New Zealand.”

While WWF welcomes the creation of new MPAs, concerns remain regarding the potential for bottom-trawling to continue in Tīkapa Moana.

“The seafloor is home to delicate and fragile ecosystems that take thousands of years to grow but only seconds to destroy. Bottom trawling is an indiscriminate fishing method that devastates everything in its path, and releases tonnes of carbon dioxide in the process.

“WWF remains steadfast in our call to restrict bottom trawling in Tīkapa Moana, and we await a decision from the Minister of Oceans and Fisheries on the proposed trawl corridors put to public consultation last year,” said Dr Kingdon-Bebb.