Newsletter – December 2022

Update on the application for the Hakaimango-Matiatia (NW Waiheke) Marine Reserve

Everyone who submitted to the formal Marine Reserves Act consultation process for the Hakaimango-Matiatia (NW Waiheke) Marine Reserve which closed on 20 March this year (all 1300 or so of them, with 93% in support), has recently received an email.  On 2 December, Steve Taylor (he/him) Director of Regulatory Services of DOC announced that under the Conservation Act more consultation was required and that progress on our application would be stalled until some unspecified date ’later’ in 2023. 

This, after Friends of the Hauraki Gulf had received a timeline in writing from DOC in July which suggested DOC’s advice to the minister would be completed by December 2022. 

This Minister of Conservation recently attended the UN conference on Biodiversity (Cop 15) in Montreal which proposed 30% of land and sea as protected areas by 2030.

This communication from DOC met with incredulous response. ‘What gives?’ asked Green MP for Auckland Central Chloe Swarbrick. ‘What bollocks!’ wrote a long-term Waiheke resident, one of the community that has already expressed 93%  support for the marine reserve. Other Waiheke Islanders wrote directly to Steve Taylor asking for a defined timeline that will be honoured.

As the applicant for the Hakaimango-Matiatia (NW Waiheke) Marine Reserve, Friends of the Hauraki Gulf have requested a meeting with DOC which is likely to take place in late January 2023.

In the meantime, the crisis of collapsed biodiversity in the Hauraki Gulf continues unabated. It requires urgent solutions.

Newsroom investigates DOC’s latest delay.

In response to media inquiries from Matthew Scott of Newsroom about the delay in getting advice to the minister, DOC’s Steve Taylor provided DOC’s standard statement. Many of you would have received it but for those who haven’t, we publish it here in full:

‘The work required to prepare the advice is complex and requires consideration of not only the Marine Reserves Act 1971, but the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011, the Conservation Act 1987, the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act 2000, all relevant Treaty Settlement legislation and Deeds of Settlement, the Conservation General Policy and the Auckland Conservation Management Strategy.

We  have determined that further engagement with tangata whenua is necessary in order to meet section 4 of the Conservation Act 1987, the obligation to give effect to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. We need to get this right, and to ensure that tangata whenua views are accurately represented in the advice for informed decision making.

We plan to be able to engage with tangata whenua early next year. The Department then expects to be able to finalise the advice being prepared for the Minister of Conservation.

Once the advice has been fully drafted, it will go through a series of reviews and approvals before it is given to the Minister for decision-making.

The Department is committed to taking the time necessary to get this process and the advice right.

At this stage, we expect to provide advice to the Minister later in 2023.

This application was publicly notified on 20 January until 20 March 2022 and is progressing at a similar rate to previous marine reserve applications. Applications in the past have taken anywhere between two to 10+ years.

While we acknowledge the applicant’s and the community’s desire to see a decision on this application, it is in everyone’s best interest for the advice to be as robust and accurate as possible.’

Our response

Friends of the Hauraki Gulf chairperson Mike Lee responds:

‘Supporters of the marine reserve are deeply frustrated with the way DOC has managed this process post the statutory submission period and the response to objections period which concluded on 20 April this year, eight months ago. This statement by Steve Taylor, which I note carefully fudges any commitment to a defined end-date, demonstrates why people are frustrated.

Though it is noticeable that DOC staffers have become fixated with section 4 of the Conservation Act (Treaty Principles), the Marine Reserves Act is the statute under which Marine Reserves are proposed, notified and approved – not the Conservation Act.

There is absolutely no reason why DOC could not have completed its section 4 engagement with tangata whenua as we did within the formal Marine Reserves Act timeline, i.e. during the 10 month pre-notification period, during the 2 months of public notification period, or immediately after. 

Similarly, the provisions of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act (2000) and the Marine & Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act were dealt with in the original notified application, the latter after discussions with DOC and prior to DOC’s sign-off for the application’s public notification in January 2022. DOC evidently waited until after an email inquiry from the Friends of Hauraki Gulf on 28th November to announce to submitters they were re-engaging with tangata whenua. 

According to a letter dated 19 July 2022 from DOC’s  Deputy Director General, Operations Henry Weston, consultation with tangata whenua, (Milestone 2 “Review of final draft by iwi and the applicant”) was to be completed by November. Milestone 3 “Final advice provided to the Minister” was to be completed by late December.

Though this timeframe was ‘indicative’, clearly DOC cannot have been serious in attempting to keep to anything near this timeframe.

There are two recognised tangata whenua bodies for this area: the Ngati Paoa Trust Board and the Ngati Paoa Iwi Trust. The former strongly supports the marine reserve application – even to the extent of being willing to co-sponsor the application, which DOC declined on the grounds it had already been notified. The latter, the Iwi Trust, opposed the marine reserve – so nothing has changed in that regard. However, 70% of submitters identifying as Maori supported the application, while the local Piritahi Marae and Ngati Paoa individuals and whanau tracing descent from 19th century rangatira who lived in the area of the marine reserve submitted in support.

We are getting the impression that DOC is, in effect, attributing to Maori the reason for its bureaucratic delays when it is purely DOC’s slow-walking and, sadly, the department’s apparent lack of urgency in regard to the state of the marine environment of the Hauraki Gulf.

The Hauraki Gulf ecosystem is being hammered. While the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi (all three articles) have not been formally defined, I very much doubt,  however one interprets them, that they would justify any government department taking such a lax approach to a core responsibility.’

Support our Petition 

The petition to support the marine reserve is up on Avaaz, the international activist platform. So far, we have more than 600 signatures on both the online and paper versions of the petition.

It reads:

The Revitalising the Gulf plan being considered by the NZ government for the Hauraki Gulf includes no new marine reserves. Please support this petition to adopt the NW Waiheke Hakaimango-Matiatia Marine Reserve & include it in the Revitalising the Gulf plan. Please spread the word through your email and social media networks to help us get more signatures!

Forest & Bird ‘Love our Gulf’

Friends group committee members attended and spoke at the launch of Forest & Bird’s ‘Arohatia Tikapa – Love Our Gulf’ campaign at Piritahi Marae, Waiheke Island, on 10 December.

A central part of the campaign is to push for 30% of the Hauraki Gulf in protected areas, including the Hakaimango-Matiatia (NW Waiheke) Marine Reserve.

Other compelling presentations were:

  • The Revive our Gulf team with strong scientific support of their practical programme to re-seed mussel beds.
  • Katina Comonos and Sue Neureuter presented for the Noises. They had very compelling video footage of mussels being almost completely depleted through over-harvesting; and before and after shots of kina removal. Noises contractors took out 140,000 (!) kina, resulting in quite astonishing regrowth of young kelp only a year later.
  • Shaun Lee was a standout with a report on his monitoring of the mass die-off of New Zealand fur seal pups and a look at the damage from bottom trawling. Great graphics, naturally.
  • Kathryn Ngapo (Ngati Paoa) also spoke movingly about the Waiheke community’s resistance to the marina at Kennedy Point in Putiki Bay.

Ghost Seas of Aotearoa

Sid Marsh, author, diver, rare-species conservation manager, and committee member of the Friends of the Hauraki Gulf, continues his reflections on our marine environment.

I’ve been working on my latest watercolour painting. It’s a big one, the size of a small billboard. The pencil work alone has entailed ten full days. I’m now at the Indian ink stage, paintwork soon to follow. The picture, in its unfinished state, looks like some photo-negative ghost image, an eerie view of our sub-aquatic world. Depicted is seascape, marine and fish life of the Kermadec Islands, as witnessed by myself as a diver in my twenties. The Kermadecs are this country’s largest no-take marine reserve.

Like many others back in the 1980s, I wrote to then Prime Minister David Lange lobbying to protect this Taonga of Tangaroa from all fishing. I thought about this whilst applying another 10,000-odd pointillism dots to the picture, until it suddenly hit me: my Baby Boomer generation (at least those few of us who had dived virgin seas back in the day) will have been the last Kiwis to have seen, experienced and swam with tame groupers larger than humans; marveled at colonies of Tikapa Moana koura, each the size of a scuba tank, squeezed together within the nooks and crannies of shallow reefs; and glided mid-water through relatively intact seascapes comprising thousands of schooling fish flanked by sharks. Note: in a healthy marine ecosystem, a highly-visible heavy shark biomass is synonymous with reefs, though rare indeed is the Kiwi diver who has in the last few decades actually seen a shark in New Zealand waters.

It’s clear as stirred-up silt that all of our descendants – children, grandkids, and every generation hereafter – will never experience the above. This is a certainty unless…

The one strategic initiative which can reverse this deplorable mess is the Government forthwith gazetting no-take marine reserves like the Hakaimango-Matiatia proposal. Hey, no different to the acronym KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid.

The alternative scenario will have our mokopuna, and uncountable future generations, eternally condemned to the over-fished mediocrity we have at present on our doorstep, viz. the contemporary “Big Three”: snapper little bigger than a laptop; koura more resembling wetapunga; and the monthly kete of baby shellfish. Expectations lowered, dumbed down by social media opinion posts and relentless Harvey Norman ads. This scenario is weirdly captured by my unfinished ‘photo-negative’, which juxtaposes a bony, over-fished marine desert (Waiheke today) with the long-gone ‘ghost’ fish life it should be carrying.

All those years ago, imagine my surprise when an envelope duly arrived in the post. It was stamped with the coat of arms of the Prime Minister’s office. David Lange had actually taken the time to pen a personal letter in response to mine. More than that: where legislation was required he had taken action.

To this day this country administers one of the foremost no-take marine reserves in the entire world. While this flagship exists there just might still be some hope for our tamariki. Thank you, The Right Honourable David Lange ONZ CH. Thank you for your courage and integrity. The Kermadec (no-take) Marine Reserve is quite likely your greatest political legacy.

Merry Christmas!

We’ll get back to you early in the New Year.

In the meantime, have a Merry Christmas and do take care of the Hauraki Gulf.

Alex Stone – editor

The Friends of the Hauraki Gulf group would welcome any invitations to make an illustrated presentation to any interested community groups. Please visit our new website for detailed information on the ecological values and the background of this proposal. Please support us! We will gratefully receive and acknowledge donations to our cause. All the work has been done, and now we need a little more to get our proposal over the line. Our bank account details are: 

Friends of the Hauraki Gulf Kiwibank, Oneroa, Waiheke Island 38-9014-0667755-01 

So we can send you a receipt, please provide your email or postal address.

Newsletter editor Alex Stone. Please contact me at if you would like to contribute to this newsletter.