The Prime Minister today committed to progress the legislation to its first reading before the upcoming general election.
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. I am thrilled to see Government finally taking the action that has 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 0.5% 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.
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 “It is critical and increasingly urgent that our out-of-date marine management toolkit is updated through a process of legislative reform to recognise tikanga-based, Treaty consistent approaches such as rāhui,” says Dr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, the announcement today 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 also welcomes the ecosystem-based management approach described in the new Hauraki Gulf Fisheries Plan, concerns remain regarding the potential for bottom-trawling to continue in Tīkapa Moana.
“The seafloor, particularly around sensitive habitats like seamounts, have 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. If this practice is to continue, these trawl corridors need to be as small as possible,” urged Dr Kingdon-Bebb.
WWF-New Zealand also recognises tangata whenua and the community groups who have been leading protection and restoration efforts in Tīkapa Moana/the Hauraki Gulf over the past decade. Their steadfast resolve to restore the mauri of Tīkapa Moana has been invaluable, and today’s announcement builds on their efforts to turn the tide on nature loss in the Hauraki Gulf.