We Are Talking With Locals and Iwi
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.