This article was published in the Nor-West News – a suburban publication on May 15th 2003
Four meetings - four votes against a west coast marine park.
But the votes are unlikely to count.
The meetings at Muriwai Beach, Bethells Beach and Waitakere City venues have
been dominated by recreational fishing interests, says Auckland West Coast Marine Park Working Group convenor Ken Catt. "Our working group has no intention of acting upon the wishes of pressure groups that do not represent the full cross-section of the population," he says. "Our decision to progress the matter further will be democratically based upon the submissions and questionnaires we receive." Mr Catt says only if the wider public vote is against the proposal will it be abandoned.
As a concession to meeting requests for more time, the submission deadline has been further extended to Monday June 30, with later submissions also considered. Groups such as Sand and Sea and West Auckland Action Group (WAAG) have been formed to fight the marine protection proposals advocated by the working group and the New Zealand Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society.
Some opponents believe a marine park will lead to stopping recreational fishing in the area. But Mr Catt says that's not the case. "We've no intention of stopping recreational line fishing, but must consider 90 per cent of coast users that do not fall into this group." Mr Catt says a survey shows most west coast activity is walking (27 per cent), swimming (20 per cent), picnics (15 per cent), boating (10 per cent), recreational fishing (9 per cent), diving and snorkelling (7 per cent), surfing (6 per cent), shellfish gathering (4 per cent) and surf life saving (2 per cent).
Claims that they intend imposing restrictions on dog walkers, horse riders, off roaders and land yachts are "quite ridiculous", he says. A clause could be included in the park proposal to appease the fishing community's fears, says Mr Catt. About two years ago, representatives of nearly 40 groups met and suggested a marine park because existing legislation failed to protect the coast, he says.