Your Right to Fish for Food
Great Barrier Marine Reserve Application
Objection by Barry Luckman
Director General of Conservation
Department of Conservation
Private Bag 68 908
Objection to the Application for the Proposed Great Barrier Marine Reserve
Lack of Support and Mandate from the Residents of Great Barrier and the Wider Public for this Reserve
Both residents of Great Barrier Island and the wider community oppose this reserve. Of the responses to the questionnaire put out by the Department of Conservation in 2003, only 446 were in favour as opposed to 1,375 that were against the proposal. Further, no figures are given in the current proposal for local support but it is widely accepted that residents and the Tangata Whenua of the island oppose it by a wide margin.
In spite of the line of 'spin' promoted by the (DoC) Auckland area office regarding support for this proposal, the fact remains that it does not enjoy widespread support and the above figures bear this out. Further, in order to paper over the level of opposition, misleading and factually incorrect information has been released to the media via the Auckland Area Conservator.
In a meeting convened last year (7 June) by the Community Board in Claris, 95% of those present voted against the proposal. Concurrent with this meeting, a DoC spokesperson was releasing information to a television interviewer to the effect that the proposal had strong support. In other meetings held to discuss this mater, two of which were called by DoC, indicated over 90% opposition to the proposal.
On 17 June 2003, the Auckland Conservator was quoted in a New Zealand Herald report as saying that of the feedback it had received, 2/3s were in support of the proposal. Again this is incorrect. In fact, of the 414 Great Barrier submissions, only 47 were in favour.
The Department of Conservation has failed to take the public with them on this reserve and through a combination of poor public relations and misleading information the Department has divorced itself from the community that it is supposed to be serving.
It is a gross understatement to suggest in the proposal document that; "the proposal remains controversial amongst some groups ". (Page 29 - 6.3 of the proposal document) There is considerable controversy over the proposal and widespread disapproval.
What has this got to do with this marine reserve?
Well, for this marine reserve to function properly, it needs the respect and goodwill of both the island residents and the wider community. It has neither, and it cannot be regarded as being in the public interest to proceed with it.
Dispensation for Fishing Within the Confines of the Reserve
The application for this reserve makes special dispensation for two families to fish within the confines of its boundaries. What is being created here are two classes of citizen, one that can fish within a marine reserve, and one that cant. Where is the precedence for this?
This is a na´ve decision by the promoters of this proposal and flies in the face of public sentiment. If implemented, it will produce dire implications for every New Zealander. What has the "foreshore debate" been about if it's not equal access to our coastal waters and foreshore, for all New Zealanders ?
This is an outrageous decision and has incensed the public to the point of anger. It has further inflamed opposition to the proposal.
Great Barrier Island is a close-knit community and this ill-conceived idea of creating two classes of citizen is having the effect of isolating both the Mabey & Rope families from their neighbours and other island residents.
Whatever the reasons or spin the Auckland Area Office may put on separating these two families out from the rest of Great Barrier residents, it will not be accepted either on Great Barrier, or within the wider community.
Failure to Fully Inform the Public
In putting this proposal forward, DoC has failed to fully inform the public as to other non-fishing areas in the vicinity. I am speaking here of cable-ways and the naval exclusion zone adjacent to the proposed reserve.
Both these features are substantial in size and this information is highly relevant to providing a full and comprehensive package of information to appropriately notify the wider population. Whilst these areas may be regarded as fishing reserves 'by proxy', DoC had a duty to point them out but failed to do so when promoting this application to the public.
I found no mention of no-fishing cable zones in the documents produced in 2003 and the current application merely mentions that 'Marine mechanisms such as cable zones may provide some level of marine biodiversity protection in the gulf'. No mention of specific no-fishing cable zones.
I can't believe that the Auckland area Conservator was not aware of the importance of these when making this application and one is left with the feeling that the omission has been done for dubious reasons.
When the naval exclusion zone is taken into account, the combined prohibitive fishing area down the eastern side of the island is excessive. This is a key feature and when combined with the proposed reserve, has a direct bearing on the (fishing) activities that can be undertaken on the eastern coast.
The failure to identify and point these features out has lost credibility to the application and it is my contention that actions such as this have hardened public attitudes towards both the Department of Conservation and this proposal. Providing only information supportive of the application is unsatisfactory.
I have enclosed area maps pointing out:
Exclusion of Traditional Use
I have had a long association with both Great Barrier and Rakitu Islands and have extensive experience with the vagaries of conditions down the eastern coast. I can testify that the eastern coastline of Great Barrier Island can present some difficult challenges in anything but settled weather. This is particularly so when wind directions are anywhere between the north-west, around to the south-east.
There are three main recognised safe anchorages on the eastern side of the island. These are located at:
Rakitu Island (Cove Bay)
The northern end of Whangapoua beach
The combination of these three anchorages provides safe shelter from winds (and swells) of any quarter. (Refer to attached map). Because of the close proximity of these three anchorages, it is usually possible to alternate from one to the other when a situation of a change of wind direction occurs. This triangle of anchorages is the only area on the eastern shoreline that can provide full anchorage security.
Heavy swells from the north through to the south are also a common feature of the coast and even in relatively settled weather, these can make anchoring outside the area outlined above, very risky.
All three anchorages lie within the boundaries of the proposed reserve and both boaties that frequent the area and local residents fish in this area for the security offered by these safe havens. This is particularly the case when weather conditions are adverse on the western side of the island.
As I have pointed out, the naval 'no fishing' exclusion zone lies to the south and adjacent to the proposed reserve. For all but the most robust and speedy vessels, travelling out of the reserve(s) to undertake fishing, then returning the extensive distances again to these safe anchorages, is not a practical option.
There are no other suitably safe anchorages elsewhere on the eastern side of the island and this reserve will have the effect of virtually closing off the entire eastern coastline, for recreational or sustenance fishing by most vessels .
The promoter of this reserve has been unable to put forward an alternative solution to the problem outlined above other than to say, "fishers can go elsewhere".
This is an interference with the traditional use of persons frequenting the location and raises issues of safety in boats having to travel further from secure anchorages to clear the reserve's confines.
Mandate for this Reserve
It is claimed that the Auckland Conservancy for the Department of Conservation has a mandate for this reserve from the government's intention to place 10% of our coastal waters into marine reserves. The proposal document states that .03 of the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park is currently in marine reserves. However, this figure takes no account of the no-fishing cable zones mentioned above.
Further, the Auckland conservancy administers well in excess of the so-called 10% government target when the management of the Kermedac Islands Reserve is taken into account.
Bringing Caught Fish into the Marine Reserve
There are concerns by many fishers that they will be subjected to prosecution if found with recently caught fish on board, while anchored in the confines of the reserve. Whilst the application points out that fish may be present aboard a vessel while anchored in the proposed reserve, many of us have no confidence that this ruling will be administered fairly. There is a fear that the proof of innocence will take prominence over proof of guilt. *
*Under the Marine Reserve Act 1971 section 18 (d). It states that every ranger may seize all nets, traps, firearms, ammunition, explosives, engines, instruments, appliances, equipment, or any devices that he reasonably believes are being used or intended to be so used or have been used .
Any ranger has the ability to seize a variety of equipment, not on the basis of proof but simply because " he believes" it is being used or "is intended" to be used for fishing. This threat will always be present for anyone visiting the reserve.
Again, this raises questions of safety, because those that frequent the area with fish on board will attempt to avoid travelling through the reserve at all costs. This will necessitate travelling outside the boundaries of the reserve and beyond the 12-mile outer extremity.
Frankly, there is no confidence within the boating community that they will not be subjected to harassment or prosecution if found with caught fish on board. This mistrust has been further fueled by misleading information put out by the promoters of the reserve on the levels of support the scheme is purported to have. This reserve will therefore pose a hazard to navigation.
Isolation of Rakitu Inhabitants
The reserve will further serve to isolate the inhabitants of Rakitu Island. On numerous occasions I have delivered supplies and transport to the owner, Bryce Rope (now leaseholder) and a succession of managers to the farm on the island. This has been in conjunction with trips to Rakitu Island while recreational fishing in the area.
If the reserve proceeds it will put a halt to persons like myself who have regularly interacted with residents there and dropped off supplies.
No Social and/or Economic Study into the Potential Effects of the Proposed Marine Reserve.
Many of the people visiting Great Barrier Island come for the opportunity to fish recreationally. Employment and local businesses are intrinsically engaged in providing accommodation and services to cater for this clientele.
Why has no study on the social and/or economic study been undertaken into the effects this reserve will have on these enterprises?
There are limited opportunities on the island for alternative employment should businesses suffer due to a reduced demand from recreational fishers.
Why a 'No Take Marine Reserve?'
The boat count survey in this application indicates that few vessels frequent the eastern coast. I question the methodology used in the survey to ascertain this. However, if this is so, how is fishing deemed to be the greatest threat to the area? I simply do not believe that recreational or sustenance fishing is so detrimental as to warrant locking up this section of coast. As I mentioned earlier, it is not just the confines of the reserve that will be affected but this reserve will have implications for the entire eastern coastline.
A number of questions remain unanswered with regard to the application for this reserve.
Why has DoC opted for a strict 'no-take marine reserve' when other forms of marine protection could have been employed? e.g. Is a mataitai not a more appropriate tool whereby the concerns of the island community and recreational fishers could have been accommodated?
Boat Count Survey Based on Flawed Methodology
The inference contained in the promotion documents for this reserve is that as there are few vessels visiting the area, few will be affected by the closure to fishing. However, the reserve applicant deems fishing to be such a threat to the location as to warrant total exclusion in favour of a 'No-Take Reserve'. It seems the Department of Conservation wants to have it both ways here, which is it?
The Department has based its assumptions of few vessels visiting the area on a flawed methodology when undertaking this survey. As is pointed out in the Boat Count Survey, boats in Arid Cove "were not recorded in this survey".
Arid Cove is the preferred anchorage for the entire eastern coastline of Great Barrier Island. It offers the most secure shelter of the three anchorages that I have itemised earlier and only when 'the cove' is full to capacity or winds are from the north-west do boats generally seek an alternative mooring. The assumptions in the 'Boat Survey' documents that "There appear to be two favoured anchorages" are a total fallacy.
In fact the two made mention of (Waikaro Point and Haratonga Bay) are merely spillover sites for when 'Arid Cove' is either full to capacity or is untenable in north westerly weather. Arid Cove contains a number of boat moorings and I have witnessed as many as 28 boats rafted up and moored in there together.
I point out here that north westerly winds are not common on this coast and probably only predominate for about 5% in total. Here again, wind strengths in excess of about 10 knots would be needed before the cove became untenable for mooring in a nor-westerly. The point I am making is that the days are few and far between when a secure anchorage could not be obtained in Arid Cove and this is why it is regarded as the key anchorage on the eastern coast.
The Cove is not visible from any of the vantage points that the survey was taken from, nor is the area to the north of Rakitu Island. Furthermore, as the survey points out, the prevailing winds are predominantly from the southwesterly quarter and boats wishing to fish at Rakitu will tend to use the northern (lee) side of the island. Again, this is out of view from any of the vantage points for data collection.
The pinnacles, reefs and deep water associated with the northern sector of the island make it a favoured fishing spot and this is out of view from the data collection points. So too is the entire coastline north of Waikaro Point (including the Needles) where boats are likely to favour the shelter from south to south-westerly winds.
The Needles, at the top end of Great Barrier is a popular fishing area and as pointed out, cannot be viewed from the survey vantage points. Many that visit here find anchorages back down the western side of the island and will not be seen from anyone on the eastern side.
The deep water fishing area off Whakatautuna Point to the south of the proposed reserve is another area, which is invisible from the all of the vantage points.
The surf beach of Whangapoua is not a favoured fishing area for boats and because of the high surf that usually runs in here, I would expect very few to be fishing or anchored in this location anyway. Hence few boats are counted in this area by the survey. Land based surf fishers use this area but these have not been targeted within the survey.
Land based fishermen also use the area out from survey collection points A and B but this is not an area usually favoured by fishermen in vessels.
Only the two secondary (spillover) anchorages are covered and apart from the less popular windward side of Rakitu Island, very little is left in the way of likely locations for boats to be located and seen.
Because of the times the survey was conducted, I believe few boats would be in transit to or from the area and won't be seen. Sailboats for instance usually travel in the middle of the day or afternoon when wind strengths are more reliable. Also, because of the travel distances involved, powerboats will tend to arrive later and leave earlier than the survey timetable.
The survey did not include the pivotal reference source of Arid Cove when collating information. The lack of vital data such as this renders the survey useless for any meaningful assessment of boat numbers plying the area. In short the 'Boat Count Survey' has so many holes in it that if it were a boat it would be sitting on the bottom of the ocean right now.
Once again, a particular line of 'spin' has been put on this application and it does the Department of Conservation no service, to pass this off as some sort of creditworthy scientific analysis.
This application must be withdrawn as it is/will be:
Otherwise contrary to the public interest.
Unduly and adversely affecting existing usage of the area for recreational purposes
Interfering unduly with existing right of navigation
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