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Media Release - Celebrity panel discusses key issues facing the Hauraki Gulf

6 March 2015, 02:16 PM

What is the most important issue facing the Hauraki Gulf?

This was the question posed at the New Zealand Association for Environment Education’s (NZAEE) Seaweek celebrity panel, hosted by Sea Change – Tai Timu Tai Pari. For some it was education, for others, a lack of understanding of the relationship between land and sea. But most of all it was lively and engaging, exploring our connection with, and dependence on, the sea.

The audience at AUT’s City Conference Centre heard a range of perspectives on the issues facing the Hauraki Gulf/Tikapa Moana now and into the future. Our Master of Ceremonies was none other than “Comedienne of the Decade”, Michele A’Court, who along with her signature humour, kept panellists in line and conversations on track.

We kicked off the discussions with Steve Hathaway, underwater filmmaker, who asked the Panel to suggest ways to engage people to value what’s under the surface as much as they do what’s above it. In New Zealand, we are lucky to have 93% of our territory off the land, yet there are a staggering amount of New Zealanders who have never visited the ocean. Even right here in Auckland, 12 out of 40 students in South Auckland have never visited the Hauraki Gulf.  So how do you try to encourage people who have never experienced something, to understand that their actions on land have a direct impact on the sea?

Our second panellist of the evening was Richelle Kahui-McConnell, who debated the place of Mātauranga Māori and citizen science.  Kahui-McConnell encouraged using local knowledge to set baselines, interpret with empirical science and using infiltrators in agencies to make a difference. She requested that specific heroes who have the power to make a stand for their communities are encouraged do just that. To put it simply; without empowering community, we are nowhere.

Third panellist Scott Macindoe from Legasea brought to the fore the topic of motivating people to conserve fish to achieve abundance – at least 40% of the unfished biomass. Mr Macindoe posed the questions: are people able to be motivated to conserve their fishing efforts to achieve abundance? How do we reach the unconverted? How do we create change through social, policy and leadership change? How do we make people care about fishing conservatively?

The fourth of our panellists, Professor Mark Orams, focused on valuing the recreational use of the Hauraki Gulf. Professor Orams opened with the value of the Hauraki Gulf as a playground, backdrop, and recreational arena and the fact that it is being under-represented in every discussion, forum or policy about the Hauraki Gulf. How do we reach and engage hundreds of thousands of Aucklanders and tens of thousands of visitors to this region who utilise this Gulf, and how do we increase the visibility of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park?

Dr Roger Grace, our fifth panellist brought up the topic of protected marine areas within the Gulf.  The marine protected areas are just as important as our parks on land, perhaps more so with the foremost focus to improve biodiversity. Why have we shied away from being world leaders in marine conservation and reserves? Is there a way of finding a middle ground with customary take areas as opposed to full no-take areas? What are the economic, cultural, connectivity and biodiversity returns of a no-take marine reserve?

Judith Curran, Executive Producer of TV1’s Our Big Blue Backyard”, focused on the way media can help encourage behaviour change through information. We can create change by coming up with a single message, delivering it in entertaining ways, to people who don’t have the access. The series “Our Big Blue Backyard” which coincided with the NZ Herald articles on Sea Change – Tai Timu Tai Pari roundtable topics, served as a catalyst for conversations around water coolers, creating an influx of interest and concern in our water-based habitats. Kiwis are ready for that sort of change. We need to convert that interest into making a behaviour change to actually make that difference.

Sam Judd, CEO of Sustainable Coastlines, our final speaker suggested ways to get people to step up and take ownership of conserving, valuing and caring for our national taonga. We need to assist the community leaders, people wanting to make a difference to do so. They need inspiration, emotion and opportunity to create behavioural change. Educating children creates household change through influencing their parents, we are already seeing this change in the next generation. We also need to have regulations in place to help administer these areas. Not all New Zealanders are aware of the urgency. “We protect what we love”, Jacques Cousteau. It’s going to take a whole, not a piecemeal approach.

Nick Main, Independent Chair of the Stakeholder Working Group, summed up the content of the debate and said he wasn’t surprised that there was ‘violent agreement’, because throughout the Sea Change process common themes have come through consistently.”  The research and information gathering phase is now over, and Nick hoped everyone in the room would support the Marine Spatial Plan through its final phase, as leadership needs to come from people who are interested and engaged in the process.

The Panel was followed by the presentation of the NZAEE Seaweek Ocean Champions Award which was won by ocean campaigner, advocate, educator and conservationist Pete Bethune.

This media item was current at its release date. The facts or figures it contains may have changed since its original publication.


Hauraki Gulf Forum Ministry for Primary Industries  Department of Conservation (DOC) Waikato Regional Council Auckland Council