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Published: 2013-09-09 00:00:00

Issued on behalf of Sea Change
A major new, multi-party project aimed at better protecting the health and productivity of the Hauraki Gulf (Tikapa Moana/Te Moananui a Toi) has been officially launched tonight in Auckland.

The two-year project known as Sea Change - involving the development of a Hauraki Gulf Marine Spatial Plan – 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. It will involve collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders and input from the public.

The Sea Change plan – to be delivered by end of 2016 – will confirm the various problems in the 1.2 million hectare Hauraki Gulf Marine Park area and solutions to them. Plan recommendations are due 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 Sea Change project steering group co-chairs, mana whenua representative Paul Majurey and Auckland councillor Penny Webster, said the partners are committed to working together effectively to better safeguard the Gulf’s health and manage it sustainably.

“The Hauraki Gulf is an extremely precious taonga, highly valued by all people for a wide range of cultural, environmental, social and economic reasons. For example, it is heavily used for recreation and generates more than $2.7 billion in economic activity each year,” Cr Webster and Mr Majurey said.

“But the Gulf’s health is 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 we need to do to better safeguard its future.”

Waikato Regional Council chairman Peter Buckley said his council felt it was essential to be working in collaboration with Auckland, local Waikato councils, agencies and mana whenua on Sea Change.

“The problems we face in the Gulf are too big for us to be working in isolation. Taking a joined up approach to solutions is clearly the best way to go. The parts of the Gulf in our region are obviously a very major asset for us in many respects.”

Hauraki Gulf Forum chair John Tregidga welcomed the Sea Change initiative: “The Hauraki Gulf Forum’s triennial state of the environment reports and recent stock take of economic activity show there are issues and opportunities not being addressed through traditional policy and planning approaches. Inviting the Gulf’s communities and users to prepare the plan will help generate new approaches and solutions, in accordance with the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act.

The project steering group (PSG), made up of partner representatives, has already held its first meeting. This group will oversee the Sea Change plan, which will be developed through a process involving project staff, a Stakeholder Working Group and the PSG itself. The PSG will ultimately recommend the plan to relevant councils and agencies for implementation through their activities.

Sea Change partners are also finalising processes to ensure the public has a say over the plan’s development. It is expected public input will be sought from the middle of next year.

Current external costs are budgeted at around $1.8 million, split roughly 50/50 between the Auckland and Waikato Regional councils. Other central Government funding is also expected. Final details of the approximately $2 million costs are still being finalised.