Stories from three marine reserves in New Zealand

Transcripts of the video made by
Marine and Coastal Communities Network of Western-Australia, 1999
Written & directed by Laura J Stocker; Produced and edited by Gary Burke
Production Function; P O Box 1131 Fremantle; West Australia 6163
The video runs for 32 minutes and is available from the above address, or from
Having people create a new marine reserve in an area, is frightening for the local community, because they do not know what to expect. By visiting places where such reserves have been created successfully, and by interviewing the locals who were once furiously opposed, one can show people that there is nothing to fear, and that many benefits will eventuate. However, a video of this nature can also easily distort the truth by de-emphasising discontent and bad news.

From the video cover:
Marine Reserves: A View from the Bridge is a collection of stories from fishing, commercial and scientific people living near three marine reserves in Northland, New Zealand.
The first 'no-take' marine reserve was established more than 25 years ago, and the stories here document first hand the changing attitudes over the years. We hear from fishermen, tourist operators, scientists and rangers about why these reserves were set up and how the local communities reacted - and adapted - to them. We hear about the economic, social, recreational, scientific and ecological benefits of marine reserves. And we hear about some of the management issues facing marine reserves and their communities.
If you are wondering whether a marine reserve is a good or bad thing, or how a marine reserve in your patch of coast would affect you, these stories will give you an idea of what to expect!

Written and directed by Dr Laura J Stocker, Institute for Sustainability and Technology Policy, Murdoch University, Western Australia.

The people interviewed in this film were (alphabetically):
DR FLOOR ANTHONI (Director Seafiends Marine Education Centre - Goat Island Bay)
MARIA ANTHONI (Proprietor Seafriends Restaurant)
TIM BAKER (Proprietor Goat Island Camping and Backpackers)
DR BILL BALLANTINE (Founding Director Leigh Marine Laboratory - Goat Island Marine Reserve)
JOHN BARKER (Proprietor Leigh Motel)
DR CHRIS BATTERSHILL (Project Leader Biodiscovery Program - Australian Institute of Marine Science)
IVAN BLACKWELL (Glass Bottom Boat Operator)
REX DAVIS (Snapper Fisherman)
NEIL DE VANTIER (Leigh Hotel Spokesman)
DAVE FISHER (Cray Fisherman)
DR ROSS GARRETT (Marine Education & Recreation Centre -  MERC)
MAURICE RICKETT (Ranger Tawharanui Park)
MARGOT STILES (Marine Biology Student)
BARRY TORKINGTON (Director of Leigh Fisheries -  Snapper Fisherman)
PERE WATTS (Maori Elder and Fisherman)
The interviews have been cut to fit the following topics: Reader please note that any documentary movie is biased by the kind of questions asked and  how these are worded, and also by which information has been left out in the editing process.

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BARRY TORKINGTON: When the community first introduced a Marine Reserve proposal it is usually a very threatening experience. The community in general doesn't really have any idea of what a Marine Reserve is or the consequences of, or what, it will look like.  They don't really know what their role will be. Usually the people that are introducing it, are strangers. They have never come with any good news. They are often government employees which is even worse. So it is not a good experience.

DAVE FISHER: 20 years ago, they wouldn't have given you the time of day for a reserve, but now everyone thinks different around here now. You are made more aware of what is happening and you are more in tune with it. They're all quite proud of it actually.

PERE WATTS: Yes we love our Marine Reserve. I have no bad words against it.

MARGOT STILES: The fishermen I have worked with, have an appreciation for the reserve and protect it, and they think about things they rarely think about.

REX DAVIS (Snapper Fisherman)
It's in the heart of the people to look after it, to take care of it.

A marine reserve is part of the sea or coast, protected from human overuse, to enhance its natural attributes and cultural values for the future.

BARRY TORKINGTON: A Marine  Reserve should simply be to preserve for future generations, areas of representative habitat and that should be it. Full stop. There should be no other purpose in the Marine Reserve - that we should look at our coast as we have looked at our land and found representative samples of particular habitats, particular types and make them into a reserve and we will just leave them there so future generations can go and have a look sometime. Now that seems to me pretty simple.

DR ROSS GARRETT: The analogy that I always like to make is when a park in a city, a place where you can sit and look at flowers, trees, grass and generally enjoy nature, and a Marine Reserve, especially one like the Long Bay Marine Reserve, which is  quite close to a city, is the same sort of thing, is a  place where you can go, where you can snorkel and look at the marine life. You can simply enjoy as it once was a century ago in this area.

DAVE FISHER: The thing is you don't need a big area, you know you don't need a big area at all. Just small areas and lots of them. So that way you don't disadvantage too  many people.

DR BILL BALLANTINE: It's fairly obvious to most people, that while the number and sizes of such places is debatable, you've got to have some and if you're not going to train people to understand what happens in the sea, you want the natural stuff first.

DR FLOOR ANTHONI: You've got to be able to protect the fish that roam, you've got to protect the fish that grow old, you have to protect the fish that spawn in a different place. There are just so many things that you have to protect.

Goat Island Marine Reserve was established in 1975 for ecological & scientific purposes

IVAN BLACKWELL: The idea of the reserve when it was first set up, was to have an area where students from the university [can do experiments], which we will be able to see when we come around a bit. But the students from there could come down here and study fish in their natural environment, behaving totally like natural fish.

DR BILL BALLANTINE: In 1965 we got talking about it, in 1971 there was an Act of Parliament (the Marine Reserves Act) passed, which would allow such things to happen. It was very narrowly written. It was only for science and absolutely forbade any kind of fishing or disturbance. Having "no-take" and "undisturbed" was the new idea because we always had places where we restricted a bit of this and prevented that and so on, but this was new this was "let's go for the ultimate lets start at the other end lets keep some bit as good as we possibly can".
The Marine Reserve at Leigh was not designed or promoted to be a recreational attraction of a tourist attraction but it is now. What we were trying to promote was the idea, and show how interesting it was to observe Marine life. I have often asked what was the local feeling but the only answer you can give is extremely mixed - half of them said it was a great idea and the other have said they would kill us if we even tried.

DAVE FISHER: First we weren't very happy about it but we saw that in the future it would be a good thing and little did we know the advantageous it would be later on.

BARRY TORKINGTON: The ones that stood up and yelled the loudest at the meeting to decry it (and they don't want a bar of it), will be the first ones that are protecting it and are ringing the department to report infringements and abuse of it. It is just the way it happened. But you can't see that at the start. At the start it is usually very abrasive.

DR BILL BALLANTINE: Goat Island Bay, the bit we were proposing, had in fact been devastated by the first set of snorkellers, spear fishermen, cray collectors. It was an hour and a half or so from Auckland, the first bit of open coast you could get to, and only had one access point and no boat launching. So they could come in small buses but they could only swim from that beach and so they all got 6 crays and a dozen fish and within a couple of years or so it was a near desert for a few hundred metres round that point. And the unusual thing was, they knew they had done it. So would take a part and it was so quick and so local, and they could see what had happened, and so they were all very supportative of the idea of a reserve. One of the chief objectors along the land adjacent to the reserve had persistently complained about how we were devaluing his land and farm and so forth. Five or ten years later, Norris [Wyatt] sold that land and prominently in the  advert was "Adjacent to New Zealand's first Marine Reserve". So  ......................

IVAN BLACKWELL: When this was first set up there was a lot of opposition to it, both with the commercial fishermen around the Leigh area, and with the people that lived in the area here. Because there was a lot of spear fishing that used to go on here. People were surf casting off the rocks and that type of thing. Now that the reserve has been here for so long, most of those people that opposed it in the interim, have done a complete 180 degree turn and they fight three times as hard to keep it here, and they are also strong advocates of having more reserves set up. They are finding there are far more benefits by having their reserve in the area than not having one. This one is by far the most user friendly and the fish now are quite used to having people with them and also it is very easy and it is very accessible for people to just drive to the top of the hill and wander down to the beach. There are another 14 reserves that have been set up around the coastline of the country.

BARRY TORKINGTON: For the first couple of years that it was established, it was resented by the local commercial fleet and it was certainly resented by the recreational fishermen. By both parties, there was a great deal of poaching going on, and the boundaries didn't have a lot of respect. It changed slowly. The fishermen decided they would have a little bit more ownership of this reserve and they respected it themselves and then took an active role in enforcing the 'No-take' nature of the reserve. But that took several years and I think their attitude hardened too. When, if they weren't allowed to go in there, then they were bloody sure that no one else was going to, and so if it was no-take, it was no-take for everyone.

DAVE FISHER: There is a certain amount of pride that would go with the reserve in Leigh. Because a lot of the reserve is looked after and patrolled by the people in the community, by the fishermen.

PERE WATTS: We guard it jealously, we look after it everyday. In reality it's a treasured area - we would kick out anyone if we saw them at it!

Tawharanui Protected Area was established in 1981, adjacent to a Regional Park for ecological & recreational reasons.

MAURICE RICKETT: The Tawharanui Marine Protected area was set up in 1981 for the fish stocks to build up and people to come to snorkel and dive and to see a natural living area - the sea area, reef areas that wasn't too far away. One didn't have to go there by boat and it wasn't being fished out. Set up to be a park in the water. It's about 3 kilometres long and about 900 metres from the shore. It follows the shape of the shore line so in some places it's a fair way out - sort of comes in and wriggles instead of being one straight line so it's very hard to mark. The main reason for most of our parks is to preserve access to beaches so that you find most of the Regional Parks have a water component to them.

The Long Bay to Okura Marine Reserve was established in 1995 for conservation, education and recreation

DR ROSS GARRETT: The directors of MERC realised that what they were seeing was not going to be there for very much longer because there were quite large numbers of people carrying out large sacks full of kina and other shellfish and so the seed of an idea of having the area somehow marine-protected. This was certainly a bottom-up proposal. Part of the statutory requirement for establishing Marine Reserves are that you must communicate with all interested parties and all people who live within a certain range of the Marine Reserve and we found virtually 100% support for the marine reserve from those people. The demands for the facilities at MERC are so great that we are completely booked out in the summer periods until 2004. That's in another 5 years time.  Although it's  an outdoor education centre, which is more of a recreational nature, all the children that come through MERC are told about Marine Reserves. The instructors tell the children about the ecology of the region.


Marine reserves bring benefits to fishing communities

IVAN BLACKWELL: When a crayfish larva, that's the little wee tiny crayfish, when they hatch out from their eggs, that little larva will float around in the water for about nine months before it decides to settle down and grow into a big crayfish. Because the crays have a safe haven where they live and breed in large numbers, they are literally seeding out through the whole of the rest of the area here. The crayfish will say: "Let's have another reserve over there". That's basically how easy it is if we let fish and the crayfish and everything breed. There's going to be plenty for us.  That's how easy it is

REX DAVIS: At the boundaries of the reserve here, we were catching male 5-6 kilograms and out of the six pots I had along the boundary I would get 60-70 kilograms of crays. Then we would go past Goat Island over there and as we went past, we would tip about 40 kilograms of big males back again. We were throwing them back - we would laugh that one day we would get caught. It would be something for the judge "What were you doing young fellow"? "Well I was actually putting them back sir". That would be a likely story. Well that's what were doing.

MAURICE RICKETT: It's been monitored since I've been here a couple of times and from what I know the number of fish or species have not increased. But they maintained that level that they were in 1981, but on the outside their numbers have decreased. It is in effect having an effect on the conservation of the species.

PERE WATTS: I believe that there are fish that come from the outside and they go in and they probably stay a week or two and then they all start to move out again. I think these are what we benefit by. We seem to know the wild fish and there's a big difference on how they fight. Once in a while we get a great big one and he's a University fish.  We know he is by the way he comes up. He just lolls up gracefully and doesn't fight. He's fat and he's light [in colour] where as you get the deep sea stuff that come in inshore and they have a beautiful colour and they are very agile and they fight hard and that's the difference in the two.

INTERVIEWER: Do you think in the Marine Reserve the fish have had it too easy?

PERE WATTS: Yes they're lazy very lazy.  They're lazy fish in the Marine Reserve


Marine reserves bring economic benefits to the community

IVAN BLACKWELL: A lot of people have heard about the Marine Reserve, either through TV or perhaps they've heard it through a school child that's been here with a school group; go home and tell mum & dad or brothers or sisters and think what is this place; lets go and have a look and they're totally amazed when they come here.

NEIL DE VANTIER: 80-90% of the visitors come out here initially go to Goat Island - to the reserve. It's so accessible. It's not 100 yards from the road, oldies can walk there, little kids can play there. You've seen it it's only a little place and just the amount of people that cram in there.

TIM BAKER: I think a lot of people who come to Leigh because of the reserve and the beach. They know they are going to see some fish.

MARIA ANTHONI: We end up getting nice people. I always find we get families with children we get elderly people we get people who are interested in nature in marine reserve. So I find it very nice working in this restaurant.

JOHN BARKER: The People who come in here have read about the Marine Reserve in overseas magazines, travel magazines etc. and they come here and they want to go and look at it. Children in particular really enjoy it. You can go down and paddle around and look at the fish. You don't necessarily have to go swimming, you can snorkel or dive or go in the glass bottom boat. It is certainly attracting an awful lot of people down there and it does add to our business. It's probably fair to say that if it wasn't there it would be more life style here than business.


Marine reserves bring educational benefits

IVAN BLACKWELL: A lot of people that I take out on the boat have never even seen seaweed before and they just don't know what is there and they are getting the opportunity to come out and see what is in the sea. We look out and see the water on top of it. What is underneath there? What is going on down below us?

DR FLOOR ANTHONI: We open windows to the sea and we do that with lectures, we do beach studies, we do it with aquariums, where aquariums are living slides - living picture - a habitat. We do it with our Internet website. We develop resources for schools and so on and so forth. We take them to the beach for a beach study. They go into real suits, they get real masks real fins and they are fully clad and covered, and they walk into the water like little Jacques Cousteaus - like little penguins and they waddle into the water and they go in and they overcome so many fears in such a short time. It is just amazing!

DR ROSS GARRETT: There are 10,000 children per annum going through MERC and they all go home and talk to the parents about their experiences because after all, when you are 10 years old and go to the beach for a week in these circumstances it's an experience you would never forget throughout your life time.

MARGOT STILES: There's a group of students doing long term monitoring - they go back to the same snapper, the same ecklonia (Kelp Forest) and the same seaquirts and check on them regularly either monthly or weekly and there's  a group of students studying commercial species and trying to see the species that are directly threatened by - when they exit the border of the reserve.  We want to know how do they move and all that sort of things - the snapper - the crayfish. And then there's another group of students that do more specific things. Physiology: can you look at algae and see what sort of pollutions are happening in the area?

Marine reserves bring scientific benefits to the wider community

DR BILL BALLANTINE: Since we got the reserve it has become much easier to see advantages and benefits. We now have a huge long list and it is getting longer every year.

DR CHRIS BATTERSHILL: So things like sponges, some seaweeds some ascidians - they all produce compounds for their own defence. They've been producing them for millions of years. They have a very complex chemistry which has evolved for their own protection and they develop that in response to a wide range of ecological interactions. That is to stop fish biting them. That is to stop other organisms growing on them. They have to stop natural marine virus and other pathogens. If you don' have a marine reserve where you can keep that pristine context alive then you don't have a diversity of interactions that these things respond to and in future generations - our children and our children's children won't be able to go and sample this marine biodiversity and look for interesting compounds that might come up as new drugs and new environmentally friendly herbicides and so on. So our future in that sense is intimately reliant on Marine Conservation and protection.

DR BILL BALLANTINE: Without marine reserves you can't really do marine science properly.  Unless you have some undisturbed place, you don't actually know what's going on anywhere. If you want to know the effects of trawling, you've got to have some place that isn't trawled. If you want to know the effects of dumping, you got to have some place that is not dumped on. But if [dumping] is known and you want to know the effect of trawling, then you'll need some place that isn't trawled AND isn't dumped on or anything. Otherwise you simply can't sort it out.

MAURICE PUCKETT: The Marine Laboratory at Leigh uses the marine protected area for research as well. They have a number of different grids and experiments going on over there. I guess as comparison between the two. So that's the advantage of having both of them in the same area - so that's an advantage for research.

Marine reserves can lead to collaborative learning with the local community

DR FLOOR ANTHONI: Scientist and amateurs have to work together because the amateurs can do everything a scientist can't and the scientist can do everything an amateur can't.  When you work together, you get a marvelous team

BARRY TORKINGTON: After several years the commercial guys were the first ones to start to take some ownership of it and this was largely due also to the interaction with the university staff. The local fishermen would give them access to boats to take them out for a day when they wanted to go and do some diving somewhere, or gather some samples or something. So there was a little bit of a relationship built up.

PERE WATTS: We have a  very good friendship we have struck up. The boys are now very co-operative. We hope to be very co-operative too. We are prepared to help in anyway we can, and I know that they are of the same opinion. We find that we learn a lot from them and they learn from us so we pick each other's brains. It works very very well.

DR CHRIS BATTERSTILL: There have been instances where local groups have for one reason or another identified one area of coast that they have been interested in, either because it is a hot spot for fish, or in one case in particular along the North Taranaki coast, they've identified an area which seems particularly rich in just the reef structure itself - felt it was interesting and unique. There was a problem of gill netting in that area - there is potential destruction of some of the reef topography, and they banded together and they actually funded a survey which was linked also to a collection effort to see if there was anything of interesting compounds coming from this very bio-diverse area in terms of the sponges and the seabed plants and animals. So here you have an example of where the community itself and indeed some of the iwi (some of the Maori groups) have got together and decided this is indeed a very precious area and stood by their thoughts and have developed one.


Marine reserves bring recreational benefits to local and wider communities

IVAN BLACKWELL: The kids come - they just love it. They swim around here with the fish. It's a good spot for them to come and spend an afternoon or a day. No problem at all.

REX DAVIS: The actual beach itself is great. We can take the kids down there and they can have a good time and they can swim.

NEIL DE VANTIER: We get the odd dive group that comes up of course, and they always come in the weekends. That's when they're off work.


Marine reserves bring ecological benefits

DR BILL BALLANTINE: Conservation can only really be achieved in the sea if you have no-take undisturbed marine reserves. We  even discovered half the species in the seas. Thus the idea that we can find them all out first, then determine their natural abundance levels, then determine whether these are changed, then determine why, and then do something about it, is sort of absurd. The number of species of fish to occur in New Zealand has trebled since I arrived in New Zealand, 35 years ago. And in case you think all the other ones must have been unimportant? They include Orange Roughy and Hoki, which are two top commercial species now!

BARRY TORKINGTON: The seaweed forest re-established and the abundance levels of all species came up really dramatically. I don't think anybody can complain or argue about that. And I think that people should accept that - that is likely to become an outcome from other marine reserves that have been established as well.


Management issues - compensation

DAVE FISHER: That's a bit of a sore point. The 10 years that I feel there should be compensation paid, something paid, something agreed to even it it's something. Because he has to go to a different area or encroach on other guys' grounds and it causes trouble. So for 10 years he should be paid compensation and after that because the advantage would be three fold.

BARRY TORKINGTON: There was one rock lobster fisherman here, who was totally dependent on that reserve. He would have achieved 80% of his income from pots in that area. When push came to shove, he was not offered any compensation. There was no mechanism to deal with him, except to say "as from 1st October you're out!". Poor beggar! What he did was, he had to leave. He left this community and went to the next community down the coast and he started crayfishing again around Tawharanui. So he lasted about another 7 or 8 years, and they decided that the second Marine Reserve in New Zealand would be established in Tawharanui and guess who happened to have his piece of coast there? So he went and wrote a book about it all and the last I heard he had a second hand book shop.


Visitor numbers

MAURICE PUCKETT: Some holiday day we can have up to 800 to a 1,000 cars in the car park area and they all come in at the main beach in the marine protected area

BARRY TORKINGTON: If you go down here where the people go out from the end of the beach, it is just like a blasted heath. Every stone is overturned. There are hundreds of kilos of food added to the near-shore waters. The every week the high level of use of that particular area, totally modifies it in terms of its marine life. It's not difficult to cope with [this problem]. If there was concern about the numbers here, simply put a gate on it and charge the first 50 cars 5 bucks to get in and close the gate and that's it for the day. "Sorry try again tomorrow it's full".  The reason you would do that is because you want to minimise the human impact.

No business would have imagined that if his restaurant was so popular, with a half mile queue outside, he would not call this a problem. He would just develop a chain [of restaurants]. Why can't we do this in the sea when it doesn't even cost anything? The only reason for not having many more reserves would be if they were not popular. If they are enormously popular there is no way we can turn that into a problem.

Adequate community involvement creates a smoother process

DR FLOOR ANTHONI: One of the things that could make a Marine Reserve more successful, is a proper management team. You cannot manage marine reserves from a central place because every one is different. Every one has different requirements. They have day to day needs; they have season to season needs and the only people who can adapt to that very quickly are the local people. So there is no other solution than to have local management. With a budget! You can't have local management without a budget.

TIM BAKER: The main thing is to make sure when you put in one of these things, is to get the local people involved from the start otherwise they are just going to be disagreeable. If you give them a chance to be agreeable from the start, then they won't be disagreeable. It simply means: involve the community and give them a job.

BARRY TORKINGTON: One would hope that the communities have the ability (in their planning processes), for the locals to be included in things like foreshore development, infrastructure, and those types of things. It's not particularly good here. I hope you guys fare a little better [in Western Australia].

Community involvement: locals patrol boundaries, and help to police the 'no-take' provisions of the reserve.

REX DAVIS: Part of the area that I fish is going past the Marine Reserve and that may be early hours of the morning that may be in the evening so I keep a watch all the time. A lot of it is ignorance. People fish in there and dive in there by ignorance but also there is a lot there that isn't and we just friendly approach the people and say: "Do you know that this is a marine reserve?", and you can tell the ones that know and the ones that don't know.

BARRY TORKINGTON: It's impossible to rely on a couple of rangers, who probably don't even live in the area, to be maintaining some kind of compliance there. It doesn't happen that way. In fact the locals will provide most of that. They are the people who live there. They've got their eyes on the water. They know the boats that come and go.

MAURICE PUCKETT: People take ownership of the Marine Reserve from that local area. They're going to keep more of an eye on it and the policing of it will become much more easier. We do catch people fishing just inside the boundaries. Usually just inside. Most people know that's a reserve and the occasional person that comes along and doesn't read the sign, and we find them fishing right smack in the middle of the main beach and quite happily fishing away and very ignorant of the fact.

REX DAVIS: When I have found somebody or see something that is not right in terms of crayfish pots inside the reserve, or people fishing within the boundaries - I haven't really had (and this is to my own satisfaction) an adequate response from those involved at implementing the policing of the reserve.

IVAN BLACKWELL: Probably policing the reserve would be my largest problem. The largest problem we have here [is] that we don't seem to have enough staff, or that the Department of Conservation don't have enough staff to police it as much as I feel it should be.

Advice to other communities near a proposed marine reserve

BARRY TORKINGTON: I can imagine that the people in Western Australia, that are facing these proposals, are pretty terrified of them actually. I mean we all were. We were all suspicious that whatever the outcome was going to be, it was going to cost us.

DAVE FISHER: Like 20 years ago I would have been one of the loudest voices, I would have been throwing everything at them to fight them. Not now. Not seeing what I've seen now. I just can't say enough about them. It should be compulsory. Every 50 miles should be a reserve - that's what I try and keep telling everyone.

REX DAVIS: If you are a person that loves the sea, and loves diving and loves looking under the water, and that's your fascination, then the reserve will be like a shining light for you continuously.

PERE WATTS: All in all we have gained by a marine reserve being in our area.

MAURICE PUCKETT: My advice would be to don't hang about - go for it

IVAN BLACKWELL: I would advise you all to come over to New Zealand and experience this one - to see how it works and to see what is going on here. Spend a week in the community. Talk to different people just like you are and form your own opinion. My feeling is that they are an asset. They are absolutely terrific to have around the place for everybody.

NEIL DE VANTIER: I don't think anybody objects to the reserve, because it does keep an abundance of sealife there, and they go outside the reserve - It's like a big feeding pond that feeds the area.

JOHN BAKER: I don't see any detrimental effects on the Marine Reserve at all. I think it's been beneficial to the local community

DR BILL  BALLANTINE: The best reason for the Marine Reserve is not the known things, but that it's an insurance against the unknown things.

BARRY TORKINGTON: In the years to come, they [West-Australians] will look back as we do, and say "That was a grand thing to do". It's all pluses when you get down that road, because it would be even more difficult to try and do it now, than it was even 20 years ago. And they'll find the same thing: if they can do it now, in 20 years on, they will look back and they will say "That's a marvelous asset for us to have, and they can justifiably be proud of it

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