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NZRFC Submission to Barrier Proposal 2003


Great Barrier Island Marine Reserve Proposal

Submission by NZRFC

30 June 2003


On behalf of the New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council.

To the: Department of Conservation
Private Bag
Port Fitzroy
Great Barrier Island

Attention: Jim Flack
Email: jflack@doc.govt.nz

Introduction:
The Council thanks you for this opportunity to present its submission to you on the Marine Reserve for Great Barrier Island proposal.
As a general statement the Council is not opposed to the creation of Marine Reserves. In broad terms we believe they should be in the right place for the right reasons. The protection of biodiversity and the protection of unique or at-risk ecosystems are just two aspects in the overall management of the resource. Marine Reserves have a place in the suite of tools to responsibly manage our coastal and marine environment. However, they are simply one of many tools we can currently use for this purpose.

The Council and Representation:
The New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council represents national and regional associations, clubs, corporate and individual members. Whilst a number of these have their own policies and will make submissions to you we believe they will be consistent with this submission lodged by the overall body.

The national organisations represented are N.Z. Angling & Casting Association, N.Z. Big Game Fishing Council, N.Z. Trailer Boat Federation, N.Z. Marine Transport Association, N.Z. Sports Industry Association. The regional associations cover the whole country and are in Northland, Auckland, Bay of Plenty/Waikato, Taranaki, Wellington, Tasman Bay, and Otago. The Council also has some Maori groups as members with Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu as a regional association. We also maintain a close contact with many of the tribes affiliated to Te Tai Tokerau in the north.
The N.Z. Underwater Federation is a national affiliate. However, we do not purport to represent this member organisation on this proposal or in this submission. In saying this we represent many of their member clubs who participate in underwater spear fishing. Some of our larger affected member boat and yacht clubs include the members of the Bucklands Beach Yacht Club (3500) and Auckland’s Outboard Boating Club (1680).

The membership represented both directly and indirectly is in the vicinity of 300,000 recreational and sustenance fishers. In addition by default we represent the public interest in the fishery and those fishers who are non-members. We say by default because we are the only constituted representative body that has been recognised by Government and the Courts of doing so.
We have a strong association with the public representative organisation option4 and support their submission on this proposal.

The 1996 research to provide estimates of Recreational and Sustenance Harvest Estimates found that there are approx 1.35 million recreational and sustenance fishers in New Zealand and therefore we effectively, through our associated member groups, represent that number.

The Council has been recognised in two court cases as representing the recreational fishers of New Zealand. The Council was attached to these cases without its prior knowledge and the court papers show it was ordered “to represent the recreational fishing public of New Zealand”. The first of these was the order of attachment to the High Court Action on the Manukau Taiapure application. The second relates to the SNA1 challenge of the Minister’s decision that was heard by the High Court. The Council also holds “Approved Party Status” for consultations with the Ministry of Fisheries and is recognised by them and the Minister of Fisheries as a stakeholder group.

The Council has a Board of elected officers and members. The Council consults with its members and the public using various means. These include newsletters, its web site and various press releases. In addition it consults through the various fishing media and meetings it holds and receives input through those forum.

This submission has been prepared and presented after consultation on our behalf by:
Executive Board Member, Keith Ingram.

The proposal:
First we must congratulate the Department of Conservation’s personnel for the manner they have gone about notifying this proposal for a marine reserve on the north-east coast of Great Barrier Island. We note that the original timetable for submissions expired on March 31 of this year and was extended to June 30 to allow for wider input from interested parties. We acknowledge this and further note that the discussion document was not released for public consultation until around this time (March 31) some five months after discussions started with island communities.
We hereby suggest that as a significant representative organisation, representing the public fishers at every level of fishery management and conservation, that it was unfortunate that your Officers did not extend to us the same courtesies as was extended to the Treaty partner and local Iwi at the same time. We are after all, under Article III of the Treaty of Waitangi, an equal partner with tangata whenua, as people of this land.

As stated above, the Recreational Fishing Council has the authoritive and active position as the recognised representative of both recreational and sustenance fishers, a position accepted by all Government Agencies and Ministers of the Crown, including the Minister of Conservation – an important point that we believe you should note.

Marine protection:
We are concerned about our natural marine resources and support the protection of the marine environment and sustainable utilisation of fish and shellfish stocks.

We equally believe that marine protection areas should be located in areas of unique biodiversity and scientific needs and in locations where the public has been fully consulted. It is important for fairness and transparency of any process that this consultation be as widely canvassed as practical. Not to do so and to only talk with local residents may open the question of “hidden agendas and corruption”.

We recognise the valued support and efforts of NZ Professional Skipper magazine, the Bucklands Beach Yacht Club and option4 in circulating your proposal to the wider public as practical. If it was not for these organisations and this Council, your discussion document would not have received a fair airing.

It is important that we attain the correct balance in protecting marine biodiversity whilst ensuring sustainable utilisation of fisheries resources and the integrity of existing rights to go fishing will be at the core of the NZ Recreational Fishing Council’s submission to this proposal.

Discussion process:
It is with some significant concerns that we make this written submission in writing rather than use the official questionnaire. This is because of the manner in which the questionnaire has been worded. We would not suggest for one minute that the Department’s Officers would purposefully introduce any bias into a public document for public consultation. Nor would we suggest that it would present loaded questions designed to lead the public into responding in the desired direction of the department’s viewpoint. We accept that there have been a number of inadvertent errors made in the drafting and notification of this proposal thus far.

However, we find that in giving full due consideration to the document, we cannot answer the questions truthfully, as we believe them to be misleading and loaded to give a general supportive view, while not allowing for any qualatitive comment. This we believe is unacceptable.

We would equally remind the Department that this is not the first time such a proposal has been mooted on this part of the coastline of Great Barrier Island. We would strongly suggest that the reasons no previous proposal was accepted or proceeded with then, is no different now.

We have a concern about the manner in which DOC has gone about advertising this proposal and the venues for public meetings. To date we have not had any notification of any public meetings hosted by DOC on mainland New Zealand, and yet it will have the greatest impact on these users and stakeholders’ rights of access. This action, we believe, has disadvantaged many recreational fisher- folk and Auckland’s boaties from hearing or partaking in any public discussion with the proponents prior to submission close off date.

As such, we believe the Department’s actions to date on this proposal are inconsistent with the code of ethics which is detailed in DOC's own handbook on “Guidelines for the Proposal of Marine Reserves” and the Government’s policy on public consultation.

Consultation with Iwi:

We equally believe that Iwi have not been fully consulted and that their representatives and local Hapu are overwhelmingly concerned about and against the proposal. We note that they have significant concerns in that the proposal will remove their access and customary rights to traditional fishing and shellfish areas, to harvest kia-moana for both sustenance and the functions of the Marae.
We should not need to remind the department or its Officers that Maori are the largest single community group that harvest kia-moana - shellfish, within the provisions of the Amateur Fisheries Regulations.

We would suggest that this right to harvest seafood for sustenance has been equally shared by all New Zealanders. Therefore we must point out the obvious fact that the marine reserve proposal will remove the only sustainable shellfish gathering area on the Island for both local residents and visitors alike.

Great Barrier Island’s significance and importance:

Great Barrier Island is of significance importance to all of Auckland’s boating public. It is after all the recognised jewel in the crown and protector of the Hauraki Gulf. It is the destination that is planned and prepared for, one that many repeat year after year or several times a year. The northeast coast is widely recognised for its safe anchorages, fine fishing and diving opportunities and its protection from the prevailing southwesterlies. Arid Cove or Rakitu Island is widely talked about and recognised as a place to visit. The area maintains a sustainable fishery.

Risks & Fisheries management:
It is scientifically recognised that marine reserves are not a fisheries enhancing or management tool. We have a raft of tools under the Fisheries Act for that. The document talks of new discoveries and not knowing enough about New Zealand sea life. It talks of marine reserves being the national parks of the sea and yet it fails to draw the comparison to a conclusion and state that the public is permitted to hunt for sport, food and sustenance in a national park, but cannot do so in a marine reserve.

It talks about the risk to biodiversity and individual species. Well, no New Zealander would wish that any species should be put at risk, so let’s identify the species first, then their habitat, isolate the threat, and eliminate the risk by using the most suitable tool we have at our disposal.

The NZ Recreational Fishing Council strongly supports protection of the marine environment as a foundation of its advocacy for consolidating and enhancing the rights and opportunities of the recreational fishing community. In appropriate circumstances and after proper consideration it may be that discrete areas of coastline should be set aside for scientific study or passive public enjoyment.

If establishing a marine reserve proves to be the only tool suitable, then so be it. In the proper process, the public would have been consulted, the costs and benefits weighed up, all options explored, opportunity adjustments agreed and then a marine reserve may be declared with full support only after all other appropriate options have been explored and discounted.

Application process:
Given that it is stated that this application will be made under the current Marine Reserves Act 1971, these options include investigating the use of:

The Marine Reserves Act 1971 is intended to protect and preserve areas in the marine environment for the conservation of marine biodiversity, which provides the most comprehensive level of protection for both species and the marine habitat.

The 1971 Marine Reserves Act provides for areas of the sea and foreshore to be declared as marine reserves for the purpose of preserving them in their natural state for scientific study. Such areas may contain underwater scenery, natural features or marine life of such distinctive quality, or be so typical, or beautiful, or be so unique that their continued preservation is in the national interest.

The Council supports this definition of a marine reserve. It is objective, measurable and succinct, and if done properly it can be seen and accepted by everyone as being somewhere special and different where extractive activities are inappropriate and should be prohibited.

Protection tools:
Marine reserves are but one tool to protect marine ecosystems and biodiversity. But they cannot be allowed to become the only tool or the tool of first choice if suitable alternatives are available. Just as a system of national parks, state forests, regional parks and scenic reserves offer different levels of protection to the terrestrial environment, the marine environment also has a hierarchy of tools to protect it.

We must in identifying the risk be prepared to use the most appropriate tool to eliminate the threat. To do otherwise would be irresponsible.

These options should include:
The Fisheries Act 1996, the prime purpose of which is to ensure sustainability of the fisheries resource and maintain biodiversity. Fisheries plans offer stakeholders a mechanism to protect, maintain or restore habitats and ecosystems which are important for marine biodiversity.

The Quota Management System (QMS) allows the NZ fisheries resource to be managed in a sustainable fashion by setting catch limits well above the level at which the fish stock can replenish itself. The QMS is viewed as world-leading by other jurisdictions which do not have managed fisheries with sustainable fishing practices. Arguments imported from these jurisdictions to justify marine reserves as a tool to manage fishing activities should be discounted, because NZ enjoys an excellent and sustainable resource management programme that is now recognised worldwide.

Mataitai and Taiapure reserves, established under the Fisheries Act, are areas set aside as traditional fishing grounds where tangata whenua have a special relationship with the area. While both Maori and non-Maori can fish in these areas, bylaws can be recommended by the tangata tiaki restricting or prohibiting fishing if they consider it necessary for sustainable management.

Regional Coastal plans (Resource Management Act 1991) allow regional councils to manage coastal areas in association (or at least not inconsistently with) the NZ Coastal Policy Statement. The Statement makes it a national priority to preserve the natural character of the coastal environment and to protect significant indigenous vegetation and fauna.

The Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 is intended to protect particular species such as dolphins, whales, seals, etc.

The Wildlife Act 1953 establishes wildlife sanctuaries and refuges to protect particular species in a defined geographic area. Those with a marine component are usually found in inter-tidal areas. While limited in their extent, the reserves provide permanent protection and are part of the protected areas network.

In addition, there are a number of controlled areas around the coast such as: Submarine cable and pipelines protection areas, trawl exclusion zones, shipping routes and the like which prohibit or restrict anchoring or fishing activities.

The current range of legislation allows for a comprehensive range of protection tools from full protection of all marine life to safeguarding specific species or customary rights in local areas. Also included are other Acts such as the Conservation Act, Defence Act, Transport Act, Submarine pipelines and cable protection Act, Treaty of Waitangi Settlement Act and the Resource Management Act, all of which have the ability to offer protection to our marine ecosystem.
It is important to keep this in mind when proposing any marine reserve, which will in effect severely restrict or erode recreational amenity and sustainable economic development.

Great Barrier Island proposal:
In reviewing the Great Barrier Island discussion document, we see no just reason derived from any identifiable threat that would give credence to closing off such a vast area for the purposes of a marine reserve. The document fails to identify any risk or discuss what might be the appropriate tool to remove any such threat to any part of the biodiversity or marine eco system.

We therefore have no option but to oppose the proposal in its entirety until such time as DOC presents the appropriate data, scientific evidence and cost benefit analyses to warrant a proposal of the magnitude such as this, which will remove access rights to the wider public to harvest seafood for sustenance.

Trade-off scare tactics:
It has been suggested that the magnitude of this proposal was to introduce an element of scaremongering so that the public might accept a lesser proposal at a later date.
We do not believe that it is DOC policy, nor would the Minister condone or support such tactics from their Officers, and as such would ask the Department to either confirm or deny that such a policy or secondary proposals exist.

Environmental terrorism:
Finally, it was with some concern that we noted a media report from DOC in June regarding a potential act of environmental terrorism when someone dumped two dead possums near the DOC offices on Great Barrier Island with the DOC Great Barrier marine reserves proposal forms attached to the carcasses.

Neither this Council nor any organisation we represent would support or condone any illegal release of noxious animals onto any reserve or protected island. We are extremely concerned about the threats we face to our marine environment and the constant potential bio-security risks from foreign shipping without creating one ashore.

We do not believe it was the work of a fisher or marine farmer-extremist, because there is no perceived gain to either cause or profile. Although one has to ask, is it illegal to be in possession of a frozen, skinned and gutted possum as shown on television, processed for consumption?

We do believe that some skulduggery was afoot, and that it was equally possible that the perpetrator of this act may have been an environmental extremist who was becoming concerned that opposition to date for their marine reserve proposal far outweighed any support. Given that submissions were to close at the end of June, setting up such an act to look like the work of either a recreational or commercial fisher would suit their environmental cause. There was a motive and potential benefit, because in doing so they would hope to raise the environmental profile in the media and curry last- minute support for the reserve, whilst denigrating the position of other lawful extractive users.

Either way, if and when the perpetrator is caught, we would suggest that they be keel hauled the length of a mussel farm and then hung out to dry in a gannet colony.
Seriously! We neither condoned nor supported the illegal release of the rabbit virus and would not support any such illegal activity now or in the future.
The issue of environmental terrorism is one for your Officers and the Police to deal with, without casting aspersions.

Acknowledgement:
We ask that you acknowledge this submission to the writer’s address so that we are satisfied that our concerns have been properly recorded.

We further invite you to discuss this submission and any further investigations of the options relating to this proposal in the future with us.

We look forward to such discussions.

Keith Ingram
4 Prince Regent Drive
Half Moon Bay
Auckalnd

Ph: 09 533 4336
Fax: 09 533 4337
Email: keith@skipper.co.nz

Copy:
Minister of Conservation
Minister of Fisheries
NZRFC and its affiliates and member groups.
option4
SEAFIC
Other interested parties

Sent: 30th June 2003

Info:
Secretary NZRFC
PO Box 26-064
Newlands
Wellington.

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