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Great Barrier Objection

Great Barrier Marine Reserve Application

Objection by John Mellars

1 October 2004


October 1, 2004


Department of Conservation

Auckland Conservancy

Private Bag 68-908



New Zealand

Dear Mr Logan,


Thank you for the opportunity to make a submission on your application and for supplying me with a copy of the application. It is regrettable that you did not extend the courtesy of forwarding the application to all those on the Island who were given copies of the earlier non-statutory document. The effect of this over-sight will likely reflect negatively in the number of submissions you receive. I trust you will not take that as a sign of our disinterest.

At the outset be advised that I believe you, as applicant and advisor to the Minister, have a serious conflict of interest in this matter. This should have been resolved by a non-partisan review of your application. That you chose not to do this reflects badly on you and the department.

Further, I believe your handling of the preliminary non-statutory consultation process was inadequate in that you have not given sufficient regard to the submissions received from tangata whenua, Great Barrier Island residents, ratepayers and business people. You have also failed to fully appreciate the endeavor of our territorial local authority, Auckland City, in asking you to join with them and others to develop a Strategic Plan for the provision of marine protected areas within the Hauraki Gulf. Logically this process should precede your application.

In relying on the Marine Reserves Act 1971 you have failed to adequately consult on, and consider fully other available protection mechanisms.   It is obvious that other tools are available which would deliver an outcome acceptable to our community and it is obvious that without community support your scheme will not deliver the desired result.

That you have seemingly attempted to gain local support for your proposal by bestowing financial providence for spurious pest management projects on private property, on Great Barrier Island, while failing to fund similar activity on the public estate is, at best, questionable.

I note your application invites submissions "in support" and can find no basis in the Act for this action, or for their consideration by yourself or the Minister as part of the application process.

The stated objective of the application is to preserve for scientific study a large area, for continued preservation in the national interest. Apart from the consequence of poorly regulated commercial fishing, the area in question, is, always has been, and always will be protected, because of relative isolation and exposure to weather. To attempt, with this application, to deprive local people access to a significant God given resource is despicable. To suggest, by pursuing this application, that the attention given to the area by local subsistence and visiting recreational fishers is damaging in any way, and therefore must be criminalized is irresponsible in the extreme.

Effects of commercial fishing aside, there is nothing in the application to suggest the national interest is not being fully served at present. Nor is there any suggestion of any future threat. This begs the question; why go to so much trouble and expense to achieve nothing except aggravation of the local population, economic deprivation for some and frustration for many recreational fishers?

The application is negligent in down playing the amount of, and potential for, boating, fishing and diving on the east coast of Great Barrier Island. It mentions that dinghies may be launched in the proposed reserve area at Whangapoua and Harataonga. No mention is made that both of these areas are difficult to access because the road to Whangapoua is almost non existent and the estuary very tidal. Your department denies public vehicular access to the Harataonga Beach area with fences and closed bridges. No other east coast launching sites are mentioned with the implication that none exist, when by far the most popular east coast launch site is just south of the proposed reserve area at Medlands Beach and the launch site at Awana is even closer. It is not unusual, in summer, to see twenty trailer rigs parked on the beach at Medlands. In similar vein no mention is made of the two boat ramps in Okupu and the fact that there are at least five launch sites in the Tryphena area.

Subsistence fishing by locals, customary fishing, recreational fishing and small boat commercial charter fishing are very much part of our lives and our economy. The area you seek to deny us is fundamental to our needs. With SW conditions prevailing, the east coast is the only option and the northern end the most protected. This is the situation on over half the days each year. With all your staff based in the north and away from the coast it is not surprising that little is known of local use of the area.

Displacement of commercial fishing effort from the proposed reserve in the absence of quota reduction will do nothing to improve fish stocks, as added effort will take place, mostly on the southern boundary. As this area, due east of Medlands Beach is already heavily fished by commercial and amateur fishers the result could be no fish for anyone. It is likely that the proposed reserve could have an effect the reverse of that intended. Unlike Leigh, it will not be practical to create a pseudo sanctuary by domesticating common species through feeding.

In my role as Chairman of Great Barrier Community Board I have contact with most Island residents and part-time residents regularly. There is an almost universal rejection of this proposal. Our people are very worried by problems of job loss, dwindling opportunity and the inevitable population drop apparent over the last year or so. No one recognizes any economic benefit to the Island from your proposal and there are indications that the reverse is likely. Tourism may provide the answer in the future and for some it is doing so now. Selling our strengths is vitally important. Two business areas of growth recently are guided rock/beach fishing and small boat charter fishing/diving, based on the Island. These are perfect scale businesses capable of good profit and utilizing a tiny fragment of our marine resource in a responsible manner. Why would you want to cut their operating territory by 50% for 200 days of the year?

I hope you will be convinced by this and other submissions to review the wisdom of your proposal and to withdraw your application, pending development of a more rational, acceptable, mutually beneficial protection strategy.


Yours sincerely,

John Mellars



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