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Mimiwhangata Article

DOC: We Are Talking With Locals and Iwi

By Sarah Kennett

9 May 2006


This article was originally published in the Northern news on 9 May 2006

The Department of Conservation is refuting accusations it has not consulted with iwi and local communities over a proposal for a marine reserve at Mimiwhangata.

DOC is working on a proposal for the marine reserve, which will cover 1800 square kilometres from Cape Brett, out 8km east of the Poor Knight Islands and south to Bream Head.

Mimiwhangata has been a marine park since 1984.

However a DOC study showed that since the 1970s the popular fishing spot has undergone a massive decrease in fish stock and marine habitat.

DOC has been consulting with the local community, Ngatiwai Trust Board and local hapu Te Uri O Hikihiki and Te Whanau Whero on the proposal.

When the department called for submissions on the proposal it received 763 submissions in favour and 332 against.

It also received a petition, signed by more than 800 people, against the reserve.

Recently a group set up in response to the reserve accused DOC's proposal of being one-sided.

Guardians of Mimiwhangata's Fisheries and Marine Environment Incorporated spokesperson Vern Tonks says the group asked an independent marine biologist to review and comment on the scientific studies and claims made by DOC.

"The interim report advised the Guardians that DOC's proposal did not, on any grounds, be it scientific, fisheries management or otherwise, stack up or justify a change from the present status of Mimiwhangata Marine Park," said Mr Tonks.

Mr Tonks says there is growing scientific thinking that one of the main threats to coastal waters is from land-based effects, such as run-off.

He also accuses DOC of not consulting hapu and the local community on the proposal.

However a spokesperson for DOC's Whangarei Area Office says DOC denies the accusations made by the group.

"The department's consultation with tangata whenua has been comprehensive and inclusive. We have met with the Maori committee of Te Whanau Whero on a number of occasions to discuss this issue and others."

The spokesperson says consulting with Maori over marine reserves is something the department takes seriously and it continues to work with iwi authorities as Treaty of Waitangi partners.

The reserve is still a proposal and a formal application has never been submitted.

It is now part of the Government's new Marine Protected Policy.

Under this policy proposals for new marine reserves will be considered by regional forums before ministers decide on them.

The forums will involve a range of community groups with an interest in the local marine area.

Ngatiwai Trust Board manager Addie Smith says DOC has been working for a long time with the hapu and the trust board is supporting that work.

She says the discussions have had their ups and downs, but the groups are now working well together and have a genuine consideration of each other.


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