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Nor-West News 29 May 2003

This article was published in the Nor-West News – a suburban publication on May 29th 2003

West coast marine park opponents may seek a return to the drawing board

Several opponents say the West Coast Working Group discussion document and
consultation period should be scrapped, as they consider the document "flawed" and lacking in scientific evidence. They also want far greater consultation.
Some on the working group itself are also unhappy with the way events are proceeding. Others in the group say they are copping verbal abuse and
"telephone persecution" for their views.

The Rodney District Council is expected to hear a full discussion of the issue from both sides at its Thursday June 5 meeting. Representatives of the working group and SandandSea action group and option4 recreational fishing interests have been invited to put their views. Discussion was delayed from earlier this month after the council environment committee agreed the council should hear all sides.

Rodney Mayor John Law believes the Government should have said it wanted marine parks or reserves around New Zealand, then let local bodies look into it because they are more in tune with their communities. Reserves at Leigh (Goat Island), Tawharanui or elsewhere could have been expanded or properly investigated, he says. Mr Law says reserve proposals for Tiritiri Matangi and Whangaparaoa have proved unpopular. "If Tiri became a reserve it would have pushed fishers further out to sea and become a safety issue."

Mr Law says the Leigh reserve contributes about $12 million annually to Rodney's economy through tourism, diving, other activities and spin-offs for local businesses. "But that's not justification for taking away people's fishing rights," he says. Mr Law believes considerable consultation and discussion is needed before areas are designated for marine parks or reserves.

The Waitakere City Council has yet to discuss the marine park proposal. It's draft long term council community plan cites support for the park's establishment and - in a 10 year action plan - also lists support for a West Coast Marine Reserve. That has further raised suspicions among park opponents.

In a letter responding to criticism about the West Coast Marine Park proposal, working group member Ken Catt says claims it will threaten the right to fish are "patently ridiculous", as the only option in the discussion document relating to fishing is to extend the commercial fishing boundary from one to four nautical miles offshore. "This must give a greater opportunity for recreational fishing." He says the marine park would have an advisory board representing many thousands of coastal residents and visitors, which would be powerful voice with authorities controlling the coast. Mr Catt says marine protection proposal material distributed is clearly identified for discussion and that public meetings were held for feedback. Mr Catt says while Forest and Bird have provided assistance, they have not been involved in the discussion of the working group. "Their objective is not ours as they wish to promote marine reserves - not a marine park."

The working group has extended submissions for six months as requested. Once questionnaires and submissions are evaluated the group will draft a detailed proposal for further public discussion. "Our decision will be based democratically on the answers received to the material distributed. We will not be persuaded to ignore the wishes of our community by hostile attacks on us, threatening telephone calls to our homes, dissemination of falsehoods to organisations with which we are in contact, or similar pressures," says Mr Catt.

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