Case study: Sea Change

The Hauraki Gulf covers 1.2 million hectares of ocean, stretching from Mangawhai in the north to Waihi on the Coromandel Peninsula and hosting New Zealand’s largest city. It is one of this country’s most prized marine resources, for many reasons. The Hauraki Gulf generates more than $2.7 billion every year in economic activity and supports the greatest number of recreational fishers and boaties in the country. It has a particularly rich diversity of seabirds, marine mammals, fisheries and marine habitats. In addition, it provides a wide variety of sanctuaries, marine reserves and islands. The Hauraki Gulf was designated a marine park in 2000. 2742

The Sea Change – Tai Timu Tai Pari project had its inception in the 2011 State of our Gulf Report 2743  released by the Hauraki Gulf Forum. This reported that “the Gulf is experiencing ongoing environmental degradation, and resources are continuing to be lost or suppressed at environmentally low levels.” In addition, through taking a historical perspective on the changes to the state of the Gulf over time, the report was able to highlight “the incredible transformation the Gulf has undergone over two human lifespans”. The report made it clear that current management approaches were ineffective in addressing the scale of the challenge and that a step change was required to turn the situation around.

The preparation of a marine spatial plan was seen as a mechanism through which all the significant issues impacting on the Gulf could be considered together as an integrated whole. It also provided the opportunity for manawhenua and stakeholders to be placed at the centre of the process through the adoption of a collaborative process. A collaborative process is a powerful mechanism through which stakeholders gain an understanding of each other’s values and perspectives, jointly scrutinise available scientific information, and seek to develop joint solutions.

A governance entity was established to oversee the project with members consisting of representatives of the statutory bodies involved in managing the Gulf and an equal number of manawhenua representatives, thereby putting in place a co-governance structure.

The plan itself is being developed by a stakeholder working group with representatives from commercial fishing, recreational fishing, farming, aquaculture, infrastructure, community and environmental interests. The group meets monthly and an independent chair was appointed to lead the collaborative process. Six Roundtables have been established to focus the plan development work on key elements of the overall picture. The topics for the Roundtables are fish stocks, water quality and catchments, aquaculture, biodiversity and biosecurity, accessible Gulf and Gulf infrastructure. These groups include several stakeholder working group members and others representing a wider range of stakeholder interests.

An extensive public process has been running alongside the stakeholder working group. This has involved public meetings, 25 “listening posts” in communities around the Gulf which totaled more than 250 participants, a web-based use and values survey, a presence at marine-related events, and an active website and email updating programme.

Spatial data sets have been assembled on a web-based tool called SeaSketch for easy accessibility. The software enables users to test and communicate spatially referenced ideas. A technical team consisting of agency staff has also been assembled to support the stakeholder working group and topic roundtables and to access science as requested.

The stakeholder working group first met in late 2013 and is tasked with producing a plan by mid-2015. The plan will then go out for public comment before adoption by the governance group and implementation by the requisite statutory agencies.                     

The Hauraki Gulf Forum’s triennial state of the environment reports and recent stock take of economic activity show there are issues and opportunities not being addressed through traditional policy and planning approaches. Inviting the Gulf’s communities and users to prepare the plan will help generate new approaches and solutions, in accordance with the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act,” Hauraki Gulf Forum chair John Tregidga. 2744

  1. http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/en/planspoliciesprojects/plansstrategies/seachange/Pages/home.aspx

  2. Hauraki Gulf Forum, 2011b

  3. http://www.seachange.org.nz/News-Events/Media-release-library/Sea-Change-underway-for-Hauraki-Gulf/

Last updated at 2:11PM on February 25, 2015