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Published: 2013-10-21 00:00:00

Issued on behalf of Sea Change
A big turnout at two forums held as part of developing a Stakeholder Working Group (SWG) for the Hauraki Gulf “Sea Change” project bodes well for its success, says the chair of the project’s board Dr Roger Blakeley.

Sea Change itself is a two-year project, officially launched last month, which will develop a new spatial plan for the Hauraki Gulf (Tikapa Moana/Te Moananui a Toi). In collaboration with associated interest groups, the SWG will be responsible for creating agreements about issues relevant to the gulf, and this will define the development of the eventual marine spatial plan.

Eighty-four people attended a forum about the SWG in Auckland on Friday 12 October and 80 attended a second forum in Thames the following Monday.

“So we had more than 160 people from stakeholder groups attend the two forums in Auckland and Thames,” said Dr Blakeley.

“They included a really varied mix of people and groups who sat together to begin talking about the gulf’s future – from industry bodies to conservationists.

“There was extensive engagement and discussion on the formation of the group which will play a key role in Sea Change.

“Sea Change staff were really pleased with the level of participation and the willingness of people to engage. This is a new way of planning for many and a bottom up approach such as ours is often not a process that people are familiar with.”

A number of participants had expressed their pleasure at the degree to which people from different sectors had engaged on issues, while others reported feeling genuinely excited about being part of a New Zealand first project.

The next step in the formation of the SWG is for approximately 60 delegated people to meet again next month to fine tune the numbers that will sit on the group.

“A more intense and involved process will be run to do this. We are confident we’ll make good progress.”

Sea Change is a partnership involving mana whenua and statutory agencies Auckland Council, Waikato Regional Council, the Hauraki Gulf Forum, the Department of Conservation, and the Ministry for Primary Industries. Interest groups and users of the gulf - including recreational fishing and boating, environmental and community, aquaculture, fishing, shipping and tourism - will have an opportunity to participate.

The Sea Change plan, to be delivered by end of 2016, will identify solutions to issues in the 1.2 million hectare Hauraki Gulf Marine Park area. Plan recommendations are due to be integrated into the policies and processes of various councils and agencies with a view to safeguarding the gulf’s core cultural, environmental, social and economic values.

The impetus for Sea Change is the fact that the Hauraki Gulf is an extremely precious taonga, highly valued by all people for a wide range of cultural, environmental, social and economic reasons. It is heavily used for recreation and generates more than $2.7 billion in economic activity each year. However, the gulf’s health has been deteriorating in a variety of ways due to various pressures on its use and land use in areas near the coast.

“Sea Change – the first project of its kind in New Zealand – will identify what is needed to better safeguard its future,” said Dr Blakeley.

“Ultimately, it’s about securing a healthy, productive and sustainable resource for all users.”