Politics | Hauraki Gulf

Hauraki Gulf bill to protect some more marine areas passes first reading in Parliament

Eighteen per cent of the gulf will be protected as a marine reserve but the economic consequences for commercial fishing means the government won’t outlaw bottom trawling.

Protecting the environment of the Hauraki Gulf from bottom trawling will come at a price.

Fisheries Minister Rachel Brooking says, “67% of New Zealand’s catch is from bottom trawling, so that would be a huge economic issue if we were to do that at the moment but we’re really interested in bottom trawling in the areas where it’s going to have the least environmental impact.”

In the last financial year, New Zealand fisheries revenue was $1.9 billion. Banning bottom-trawling in the whole of the Hauraki Gulf Brooking would impact fishing efforts, the minister says.

“So, we’re worried about displacement of fishing efforts. So, boats going down to the Bay of Plenty or up further into Northland.”

Brooking says no bottom trawling will happen in the Hauraki Gulf without proper authorisation.

“That has to be done through regulation under the Fisheries Act, so a separate process. No bottom trawling can happen in any of the marine-protected areas.”

Species like snapper, kingfish, and kahawai all live together in the Gulf, and are affected by environmental factors. Conversations about providing more protection will continue.

“So, we’re consulting on from tomorrow a plan to ban between 74% and 89% of the Gulf protected in this way,” Brooking said.

Conservation Minister Willow-Jean Prime says the first reading of the bill is a major achievement.

“So, all new protection which will increase what we have from effectively 6% to 18% of the Gulf protected in this way.”

“We hope to achieve through that bill the establishment of 19 new marine protection areas. They are a range of marine protections including reserves, high protection areas and seafloor protection areas.”

The Hauraki Forum says 18% is a giant step forward but it wants 30%.