Our Precious Marine Environment
of the marine environment
If ever there was a time
to ride the wave of public awareness for the need to protect our
precious marine environment now is the hour. Gone is the alibi of
ignorance and obliviousness, stripped away by the information streaming
in through every media, never mind our own ability to assess the
state of play. Never has the need for protection and "best practise"
been more evident.
Why is it then that the tax
payer funding for biodiversity has been hijacked by the Department
of Conservation who in turn are driving single mindedly down their
slavishly narrow perspective of marine reserves – total closure
forever, no review period.
The Department seem intent
on promoting at every opportunity their spin on the benefits of
reserves. There has been little or no effort to discuss/debate the
costs of these closures. Dr Floor Anthoni has raised many questions
about the science and ideology supporting marine reserves. Why is
it that the Department are stonewalling him and the public and refusing
to engage in robust, transparent debate on these challenges? In
the absence of credible process of debate, the questions and concerns
raised remain unanswered, leaving us little option but to take
"A better way" as simply that.
As far as cost benefit analysis
is concerned, the readily available information is pretty scarce.
Lots of feel good promises about what benefits a reserve network
might deliver – little or no discussion about the tangible
and opportunity costs that reserves will incur.
Quite clearly, the public
wish to see a "coordinated and integrated approach to marine protection"
given effect. This has been raised time and time again with the
Department. We cannot point to any effort on their part to go there
– instead all we see is more focus on consultation to implement
a network of reserves.
Where does the Department
of Conservation derive their mandate to promote marine reserves?
The Marine Reserves Act 1971 is about setting aside areas for the
purposes of scientific study. There is no mention of biodiversity,
habitat management, ecosystem manager, trophic cascades or any of
the other talk that permeates the Department's conversation today.
Sure, there is a bill before Parliament that will give the Department
an almost unfettered ability to implement marine reserves, but that's
all it is, a bill. It is not the law of this land.
DoC are getting their drive
from the Biodiversity Strategy. This strategy covers marine protection
and mentions marine reserves. There is far more to marine protection
than total closure forever by way of marine reserves. It is this
point that the Department of Conservation continually refuse to
Various proposals for marine
reserves have resulted in an increasingly clear call from the public
demanding an integrated and coordinated approach to marine protection
taking into account all of the mechanisms at out disposal. Obvious
protection mechanisms are cable, shipping and military zones. Equally
obvious are fisheries constraints like the Quota Management System
(QMS) that applies to the entire EEZ. Within the QMS there are many
method constraints that afford very real protection to habitats.
What about the incredible potential of customary Maori management
that is clearly legislated in the Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries
Claims) Settlement Act 1992? Neither the Department of Conservation
nor the Ministry of Fisheries seem sincere in their intent to see
these tools given effect nationally.
On June 4, the Minister
of Conservation announced the establishment of a marine reserve
in Paterson Inlet,
Stewart Island. Before the Minister can establish a marine reserve
he has to ask the Ministers of Transport and Fisheries for concurrence,
their agreement. To the Minister of Fisheries credit, Pete Hodgson
at the time, he asked his Ministry to conduct public meetings and
consult on whether he should provide concurrence to this proposal.
In November 2003 option4
provided the Minister of Fisheries with a comprehensive submission
on why concurrence should not be given to this application. There
has been no attempt by the Minister to answer any of the questions
in the submission or acknowledge that the application does not meet
the purposes of the Marine Reserves Act.
The majority of the consultation
for this application was conducted between 1993 and 1995 with limited
consultation in 1997. It is totally inadequate to use the results
of a nine year old consultation round and push ahead with a marine
reserve without providing the public adequate opportunity to make
a meaningful contribution to the process. Over 30,000 people visit
Stewart Island every year. The Department of Conservation and MFish
made very little attempt to contact these visitors and ask for their
"I don't think anybody
should have anything to fear. This is the result of a 10-year-process,
good community consultation and the outcomes will ultimately be
better use of conservation and the stock for everybody," said
David Benson-Pope. option4 disagree. The Minister of Fisheries,
by providing his concurrence to this application, is party to another
inadequate process that fails to address the all too common problems
associated with many marine reserve applications. Inadequate consultation,
poor process and lack of intent to engage with existing users of
the area will result in an outcome which is flawed and ultimately
not what the next generations of New Zealanders deserve as we see
these areas locked up forever under DoC control.
It is time for DoC, MFish
and any other organisation involved in the marine reserve process
to acknowledge the public's desire to protect our marine environment,
harness that energy and direct it towards meaningful projects that
will enhance our seas so we can all enjoy our respective marine
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