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Director-General of Conservation
Department of Conservation
Auckland Conservancy
Private Bag 68-908

01 October 2004

Dear Sir,




1. The NZ RLIC is owned and operated by the consortium of nine regional commercial stakeholder groups – CRAMACs – whose membership is comprised of rock lobster industry personnel.  CRAMAC membership is generally inclusive of the owners of quota shares in each of the nine rock lobster fisheries, the fishermen and women who are permit holders and own annual catch entitlement (ACE), and by default, the owners of packhorse rock lobster quota shares; and the Licensed Fish Receivers (LFRs) that process and sell rock lobsters to domestic and export markets.

2. The NZ RLIC provides coordination, administrative, technical, advisory and advocacy services for each of the nine CRAMACs and/or the individual bona fide industry members who request those services.

3. The marine reserve application under discussion is one being made for an area within the boundaries of the CRA 2 (Bay of Plenty) rock lobster fishery management area.   The CRA 2 Rock Lobster Company Ltd is the regional representative body (CRAMAC) for the 52 quota share owners (QSOs) in the fishery.  The Company is affiliated to the NZ RLIC, and the NZ RLIC has coordinated and presented a number of previous Company submissions in regard to marine reserve proposals within the CRA 2 boundaries.

4. The NZ RLIC confirms a significant mandate for representation and advocacy from CRA quota owners on an annual basis by way of an audited postal ballot.  In addition to the immediate interests of the CRA 2 industry in regard to the potential loss of fishing opportunity and catch, the NZ RLIC has a wider interest in the current application as it relates to process and precedent.

5. The NZ RLIC is one of the 30 shareholders in, and an active contributor to, the NZ Seafood Industry Council Ltd (SeaFIC) and strongly endorses the SeaFIC submission on the Aotea (Great Barrier) Marine Reserve application.  The NZ RLIC believes that the generic issues raised in the SeaFIC submission are of significant importance in the assessment of objections to the application.  Likewise the issues raised in the submissions made by other seafood industry representative groups, in particular the Northern Inshore Fisheries Company Ltd (TNIFCL), also a shareholder in SeaFIC.  The TNIFCL submission is strongly endorsed by the NZ RLIC.

6. An underlying objective for the NZ RLIC is that its work should add value to lobster fisheries and to the New Zealand lobster industry.  The NZ RLIC advocates, and to the extent allowed it manages, utilisation of marine resources whilst ensuring sustainability.  The NZ RLIC also advocates and works to consolidate and enhance the rights-based regime that underpins fisheries (and other natural resource) management in New Zealand.

7. Commercial property rights in fisheries are the cornerstone of continued economic, social, and environmental benefits to be derived from sustainable utilisation.  The NZ RLIC acknowledges, encourages and to a meaningful extent facilitates a wider stakeholder group involvement and participation in fisheries research and management processes.  The NZ RLIC advocates credible research services in support of the fisheries management regime, and is a rock lobster research services provider to the Minister of Fisheries.  The NZ RLIC supports the general themes of environmental protection, ecologically sustainable development, and acknowledges that in appropriate circumstances the closure of an area to fishing may be the correct remedy to an identifiable risk or threat.

The Application

8. The NZ RLIC does not support the current application for the Aotea (Great Barrier) Marine Reserve.  This submission, which should be read in conjunction with submissions from SeaFIC and TNIFICL, addresses three matters that must be properly considered by the Minister of Conservation when evaluating objections to the declaration of the proposed reserve, and by the Minister of Fisheries when evaluating a request for concurrence:

Failure to Justify

9. The June 2003 NZ RLIC submission on the original Great Barrier marine reserve proposal placed great emphasis on the Department’s failure to justify the declaration of such an immense “sanctuary” area.  The application that is now subject to public consultation does not improve on the applicant’s original rationale or justification (or rather the lack thereof).

10. The applicant relies on the current application being consistent with the Marine Reserves Act 1971 but provides no really useful information to support the inherent contention that such an immense closure to fishing is necessary to protect the area for the purposes of scientific study.  Nor does the application offer sufficient evidence to support the contention that the area itself has the characteristics that warrant such protection under the Marine Reserves Act.

11. The application ignores any basic consideration of the risks or threats that might demand a closure to fishing.  The only activity constrained by the declaration of this marine reserve will be fishing.  The applicant is therefore confirming that “fishing is a risk to scientific study in the area bounded by this application” or that “fishing is a risk to the underwater scenery, natural features and marine life in the area bounded by this application that might be the subject of scientific study”.

12. Yet in the consultation documents the applicant offers no evidence of risk, nor any assessment of potential risk.

13. The current application is also notable for the absence of any meaningful discussion or analysis about the importance or otherwise of scientific study within the intended boundaries.  There is an extremely feeble attempt to link future scientific study opportunities for two potential users (the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic and the “Offshore Island Research Group”) without any reference to any over-arching strategic research plan.  The research needs of these two interested parties are not elaborated on, making it impossible to weigh up the likely benefits of having such an immense area closed to fishing so that some (as yet) unspecified scientific study of no (as yet) demonstrable public benefit can be undertaken.

14. The NZ RLIC agrees with both SeaFIC and TNIFCL that in the absence of clearly defined objectives and measurable outcomes the marine reserve cannot “meet its purpose”.

15. It has been and continues to be a fundamental problem of the ongoing DOC promotion of marine reserves that the Department’s advocacy is conducted in the absence of any coherent marine reserves policy.  The DOC marine reserves agenda is clear to those who have to deal with it – there is a political and territorial imperative – but the policy is haphazard at best.

16. In December 2003 and in May 2004 the Auckland Conservancy Community Relations Manager (Marine) wrote to the amateur fishing advocacy group Option4 stating that -

Government policy outlined in the Biodiversity Strategy 2000 supports a strategic plan for establishing a network of areas to protect marine biodiversity. We are currently working on such a plan for the Hauraki Gulf and are expecting that key stakeholders and interested parties will have input into the decision-making process.

17. That attempt to justify the exclusion of fishing from the north east coast of Great Barrier Island by linking the (then) DOC marine reserve proposal to the Biodiversity Strategy was misleading in the first instance and has since been recycled on many occasions.  In regard to the latter point in the statement quoted above, DOC has not considered or presented the Aotea/Great Barrier application in any context of a consulted and published plan to protect the biodiversity of the Hauraki Gulf.

18. However the more important points from the NZ RLIC perspective are that the statement infers (a) that there is little or no current protection of marine biodiversity, and (b) that a network of areas closed to fishing is the key to protecting marine biodiversity, and (c) that there are threats and/or risks to marine biodiversity that must be addressed.  None of those contentions is supported by fact or evidence.

19. The Fisheries Act and numerous other legislative and regulatory provisions establish a level of protection over marine resources, including fish and habitat, to the extent of the New Zealand 200 nm EEZ.

20. An application for a marine reserve made under the current Marine Reserves Act 1971 can not have “areas set aside for the protection of marine biodiversity and their continued preservation” as a principle objective as claimed in S6.1 of the current application.  The Marine Reserves Act is far more explicit in its references to “underwater scenery, natural features, or marine life” that is shown to be “of such distinctive quality” – “or so typical … so beautiful - or so unique” that continued protection and preservation is necessary “for the purposes of scientific study”.   [1]

21. In a June 2003  submission to the original marine reserve proposal the NZ RLIC wrote –

The correct process for anyone wanting to propose a marine reserve is to conduct a biological and geomorphological study of preferred sites to confirm typical or unique; determine whether or not scientific study is compromised by leaving the site as is; evaluate the threats and risks to the integrity of the special features of the site, and if such threats and risks cannot be mitigated by existing legislative or regulatory remedies, or if scientific study is impossible whilst the status quo prevails – then assemble a proposal to protect a specific area for the purposes of scientific study. 
22. There is more that can be argued about the qualifying characteristics of a greater than 50,000 hectare area that might justify marine reserve status under the current Act.  The applicant concedes [2] that there is no underwater scenery, no natural features, and no marine life that is “unique” and further correctly acknowledges that the concept of “beautiful” is a subjective criterion.  Which leaves the application somewhat dependent on the characteristics of “such distinctive quality” and “so typical”.

23. The applicant’s argument in support of “such distinctive quality” relies too heavily on the speculation over the conjunction of land and sea on the north east corner of Great Barrier Island and the sheer size of the area applied for.  There is a glaring lack of evidence in support of the proposed boundaries.  The size of the area is only justified by the assertion that “connectivity of habitats ... may be of benefit to some marine species that utilise a range of habitats and depths for various stages of their life history” [3]  - another issue which is clearly out of scope of the purposes and principles of the current Marine Reserves Act.

24. The NZ RLIC submits that the current application is opportunistic.  It may be strategic in the context of the political, departmental and/or Auckland Conservancy agendas, but it is less so in the context of current legislative and regulatory arrangements as diverse as the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act, the Fisheries Act, or even the current Marine Reserves Act.

25. If the underlying “test” of the Marine Reserves Act is that a marine reserve should best serve the public interest then this current application must fail.  The application document contains neither rationale nor justification for the exclusion of fishing for the purposes of scientific study and the application itself sits in isolation from any wider consideration of a marine reserves policy that fits within national policy on marine protected areas and/or is consistent with the underlying rights-based fisheries management regime that enables utilisation of fisheries resources and has given effect to the settlement of Treaty grievances.

[1]  Text in italics lifted from S.6.1 of the application.
[2]  S.6.1 page 28
[3]  S.6.1 page 27 of the application

Unduly Interfering

26. The applicant chose to demean and dismiss the often vocal community opposition to the initial Great Barrier marine reserve proposal.  There are numerous well documented expressions of concern and frustration by fishing clubs, fishing representatives, and individuals, which are punctuated by advertisements objecting to the proposal being taken in Auckland newspapers.

27. The current application is essentially unchanged in terms of the boundaries, other than the concessions made to resident non-commercial fishing interests.  This despite a high degree of public interest and concern demonstrated by Auckland amateur boating and fishing interests in particular.

28. The NZ RLIC submits that the Auckland Conservancy effectively pre-empted the final public consultation process with the following media statement –

Auckland DoC boss Rob McCallum made it clear fishers had already had their say.
"They have made their views well known," he said.
"We've said all along that if you have to travel 60 nautical miles from Auckland to the far side of an island, it's hard to show you are adversely affected when you can fish almost anywhere else in the gulf."
29. The notion that fishing can be undertaken “almost anywhere else in the gulf” is one that pervades a great deal of DOC marine reserves commentary.   The notion that objectors have to show they are adversely affected in order to warrant consideration rather than the applicant properly demonstrating otherwise is not one conceded by the NZ RLIC.

30. S5.4 of the current application asserts that –

The establishment of the proposed reserve makes up a very small part of the Quota Management Areas and the majority of these areas will continue to be available for commercial fishing.
31. S5.7 acknowledges that some recreational or amateur fishers (sic) may be affected by the proposal but opines that –
numerous alternative sites for boat and land based fishing exist elsewhere around Great Barrier Island and in the wider Hauraki Gulf and Coromandel Peninsula areas.
32. All three of those DOC pronouncements reveal the applicant’s complete lack of understanding of fishing, fishing behaviour, the relevance of Quota Management Area boundaries, and the inevitable effects of displacement from established fishing grounds.

33. The applicant repeats the error of understanding in S.4 of the “Analysis of Commercial Fishing  (Catch and Effort)” that –

… Statistical area 905 covers a significant length of coast including the inner Hauraki Gulf and islands.  The proposed reserve, which covers only the coastline on the northeast of Great Barrier Island, makes up a very small part of statistical area 905.
34. That statement is technically correct, but when considering rock lobster catch and effort data it is reasonable to expect a reference to the proposed reserve being some estimated proportion of the area fished by commercial operators within the statistical area (administrative) boundaries.  Small in the context used by the applicant is not necessarily insignificant in terms of importance to fishing.

35. The NZ RLIC submission is that the declaration of a marine reserve will unduly interfere with fishing – commercial and amateur.

36. The applicant obviously presumes that a superficial reference to, rather than a credible analysis of, commercial catch data provided by MFish is sufficient to inform the assessment and evaluation of objections that must be done by the Ministers of Conservation and Fisheries.   The NZ RLIC submits that the current application is negligent in this regard.

37. The Aotea/Great Barrier application is distinguished by the greater than 50,000 hectare area coverage.  In this instance more than most other past and current marine reserve proposals, size does matter.  This is especially true when the application is placed in the context of the existing and intended fishing exclusions in the Hauraki Gulf region.  With numerous area and method exclusions, commercial exclusion zones, existing marine reserves, the ARC marine park intended to become a marine reserve, harbours closed to fishing, shipping lane exclusions, Naval exclusions and proposals for a marine reserve at Mimiwhangata, the current application deserves and has received special scrutiny by the commercial and non-commercial fishing communities.

38. The application itself readily acknowledges existing extractive use for commercial and recreational purposes.  The applicant has negotiated concessions for specific affected parties in recognition of their history of occupation and use of fishing grounds.

39. The applicant has also modified the original marine reserve boundaries to enable recreational activities in the proximity of Great Barrier Island settlements [4].  In this regard the applicant has therefore conceded that fishing is an activity that is valued by those who fish and of sufficient importance to those persons to oblige concessions being made to specific interests.   The applicant therefore agrees the proposition that the declaration of a marine reserve will “interfere with or adversely effect … existing usage of the area for recreational (non-commercial fishing) purposes”.

40. However the application is silent as to why the common law right of all New Zealanders to fish within the constraints of amateur daily bag limits and an enhanced, exclusive non-commercial fishing opportunity are accorded to some persons but denied to a much larger number of others.

41. Likewise the application is silent as to why selective and exclusive non-commercial fishing opportunity is given priority over statutory fishing rights owned by commercial interests.

42. The concerns of those two categories of existing extractive users are not met by an admonition that they can fish elsewhere in the Hauraki Gulf or some other part of the relevant quota management area.

43. The following section of the NZ RLIC submission will focus on the errors of judgement and understanding that lead the applicant to assert that the concerns and objections of affected parties are met by telling them they can go somewhere else.

44. Dealing firstly with the status of quota management areas – QMA boundaries are primarily administrative.  It is generally the intention to catch and land fish on a fishing trip – in which case fishing trips are made to fishing grounds on which fisherfolk consider they have a reasonable chance of fishing success.  There is more area within a QMA boundary that is not fished for rock lobster (and other species) than is.

45. That is the case because fish and shellfish are not evenly distributed in size, condition, or abundance across every square metre within a QMA boundary.  The areas of importance for fishing in any QMA are the fishing grounds – the conjunction of natural systems and processes, habitat, bathymetry, biology and behaviour that determine fishing success as measured by catch, catch rate, and the value of the landed catch.

46. The closure of fishing grounds within any QMA effectively confounds the quality and the quantity, and the value of the commercial property rights owned by Quota Share Owners, permit holders and ACE owners, and also compromises agreed fishery management outcomes.

47. A superficial analysis of the three most recent years of reported commercial landings in statistical areas 008 and 905, combined with an irrelevant (in the context of evaluating potential interference with fishing) comparison of catch and effort in other nearby statistical areas [5] ignores the particular importance of spatial and temporal access to fishing grounds in (a) the construct of the New Zealand fisheries management regime and (b) the intended fisheries management outcomes.  That same analysis falls woefully short of quantifying the potential effects on fishing if the marine reserve is declared.

48. A more obscure but no less important point that must be made – and in the view of the NZ RLIC must be very carefully considered by Ministers - is that it could be construed to “otherwise be contrary to the public interest" [6] to erode the quality and integrity of the rights based regime that enables and ensures sustainable utilisation of fisheries resources in New Zealand waters.

49.  The reef systems adjacent to Great Barrier Island produced (and continue to produce) catches that are used in the stock assessments that established TACCs when the Bay of Plenty rock lobster fishery entered the Quota Management System (QMS) in 1990, and the TACs and TACCs implemented since.  The time series of data for stock assessments commences in 1949 [7] .

50. The catch histories of individual commercial operators generated the Transferable Term Quotas (now Individual Transferable Quotas – ITQs) that constrain commercial landings to sustainable levels.  Individual catch histories were derived from a geographical and temporal spread of rock lobster fishing effort which included the fishing grounds of Great Barrier Island.   The relevant catch history years are 1982 to 1988 inclusive.

51. The distribution of the rock lobster fishing fleet was and is predicated by the abundance of lobsters on fishing grounds within a reasonable distance of ports of domicile.  Commercial rock lobster fishermen have long established “territories”, both communal and individual, which are known by fishermen to have limitations on their productive capacity somewhat proportional to overall rock lobster stock abundance.  Any exclusion from fishing grounds interferes unduly with commercial fishing at the individual and collective level across the rock lobster fleet.

52. Yes, it is true that commercial fishermen (as they all are in this instance) who are displaced from fishing grounds inside the proposed marine reserve, can go elsewhere in the QMA.  There is no evidence to suggest that all are able to.  They obviously don’t want to otherwise they would not be fishing around Great Barrier now and in the past.  The costs of relocation or the additional steaming time to reach other fishing grounds, plus the difficulties of establishing an ongoing rather than occasional presence as an “intruder” on an already fished territory could be extremely demanding on fishermen in a physical, emotional and financial manner.

53. However if they were forced to make a move the chances of them catching the same species, the same quantities, and/or the same quality of fish and shellfish are not the same as the opportunity they are forced to forego.  Nor is the prospect of catching those fish or shellfish at the time that is of greatest value to fishermen (something inherent in their existing fishing opportunity) assured to them.

54. Commercial fishermen operate along the north eastern coast of Great Barrier Island (and elsewhere) because there is catch to be taken at times and in conditions where fishing success is less on other fishing grounds.

55. Elsewhere in the QMA commercial fishing is already being undertaken.  In effect, all the available fishing opportunity is already “allocated” and in the case of the CRA 2 rock lobster fishery can be demonstrated to be fully subscribed.  Fishermen forced to leave the area designated as a marine reserve are not accompanied by the fish or shellfish that they would otherwise catch – and wherever fishermen might move to (assuming they have the ability and the capacity to move) they will be competing with existing users for a share of available abundance.

56. No “extra” catch elsewhere in the quota management area, or even within a reasonable distance of the reserve boundaries, is created by the declaration of a marine reserve.  The net effect of the declaration is that 100% of the currently available fishing grounds and the available stock abundance on those grounds is reduced to some lesser amount by the prohibition on extractive use.

57. Does that reduction amount to interfering unduly with commercial fishing?

[4]   Whangapoua estuary – and special arrangements made with the Mabey family and with the Rope Family Trust
[5]   Analysis of Commercial Fishing (Catch and Effort) – DOC, Auckland Conservancy June 2004
[6]   S.5(6)(e) Marine Reserves Act 1971
[7}   Rock Lobster Fishery Assessment Working Group – 2002 Plenary Report


58. A small family owned and operated vertically integrated fishing company [8] has built a successful and reputable business based on rotational harvest of kina (sea urchin) to ensure regular production of quality product.  That company is based in Whitianga and routinely travels to various dive locations depending on weather and market orders.   The effort deployed in any one location will vary from year to year, but each location plays an important part in the overall annual harvest because if an area is closed to fishing then the company must put additional effort into the remaining areas in order to maintain harvest levels and catch rates.

59. This company estimates that their team of divers has harvested in excess of 95% of the reported commercial catch of kina in the 008 statistical area within the quota management area SUR1B.  Dive locations within 008 are the main sources of SUR 1B kina catches.  Great Barrier Island sits within the 008 statistical area boundaries.

60. The reported kina landings for 008 are 408 tonnes for the three fishing years commencing October 2000.  The fishing company reliably estimates approximately 60 tonnes was harvested from the area inside the proposed marine reserve boundaries.

61. Quality is a major issue when it comes to kina product – not every kina is suitable for the market, so harvest is selective.  The quality of kina varies across the dive locations.  The kina harvested from the north east coast of Great Barrier Island is of high quality compared with kina elsewhere on the coastline within 008.  The 60 tonnes of kina harvested from the north east coast of Great Barrier Island is just under 15% of the total 008 harvest but because of the superior quality is at least 20% of the dollar value of that harvest.  If the proposed marine reserve is declared this kina fishing company will be significantly affected and will be forced to rebuild and re-structure its existing fishing plan in order to maintain production and profitability.  The NZ RLIC considers this to be a prime example of undue interference with commercial fishing and submits that the Minister should uphold this objection.

[8]   Mr. Peter Herbert, Flaxmill Bay, Whitianga

Summary answers to the question –

62. “What happens to fishing activity when a marine reserve is established?”

Balancing the effect against other values involved.

63. Those consequences cannot be dismissed with the admonition that has been consistently published by the applicant – “they can fish elsewhere”.   The NZ RLIC submits that the current application is grossly deficient in terms of any meaningful analysis of (a) the social and economic costs associated with fishing exclusions, and (b) evidence of the public benefit from the declaration of a marine reserve.

64. The NZ RLIC understands that amongst the factors to be taken into account by Ministers when evaluating this application is an assessment of the likely benefits (of the area being declared a no-take marine reserve) versus the potential interference to a range of interests and activities including fishing.  Any such assessment requires Ministers to weigh the effect on fishing against the overall public benefit of the proposed reserve.

65. That being the case, Ministers require certain information from the applicant, including evidence of the overall benefit being denied to the public as a consequence of the existing status of the area.  No such evidence is offered by the applicant.  The applicant cannot demonstrate the area to be unique, or of any more distinctive quality, or any more typical than other sites within the Hauraki Gulf region, some of which are already closed to fishing.

66. Even when choosing to ignore the statutory link to protection for the purposes of scientific study, the applicant cannot elucidate one threat or risk to the existing biodiversity of the proposed area and certainly cannot demonstrate any risk associated with fishing.  The applicant cannot sustain the proposition that the marine environment in the Hauraki Gulf region generally or the Great Barrier coastline in particular is “unprotected”.  It follows that whatever environmental qualities or intrinsic and existence values exist within the proposed marine reserve, they exist in spite of, as a consequence of, or in isolation from the fishing activities that the applicant seeks to exclude.  Further, their very existence confirms that the current level of “protection” is effective and adequate.

67. The applicant offers no evidence that the overall benefit to the public is any less as a consequence of scientific study within the proposed marine reserve boundaries being compromised by fishing [9].  Taking those facts into account, on what basis are Ministers expected to credibly conclude that the declaration of this marine reserve will be in the “best interests of scientific study and will be for the benefit of the public" [10]?

68. Ministers can only come to such a conclusion if they are satisfied that the applicant has demonstrated that the degree of interference with commercial fishing is not “undue”.  What information has the applicant given the Ministers to assist that consideration?  The current application contains no information on which to conclude that a fishing exclusion is justifiable and/or warranted in the circumstances.  Nor can Ministers credibly discern that excluding fishing is worthwhile.

69. In those circumstances the NZ RLIC submits that the Ministers must uphold the objections made to the application.

[9]  It is nonsense for the applicant to infer – S3.1 of the application – that the potential for scientific study on the north east coast of Great Barrier Island is sufficient justification for the declaration of a marine reserve.  If potential for scientific study was truly a determining factor and/or if fishing was the limitation on such study then the entire EEZ could be closed to fishing.
[10]  S.5(9) Marine Reserves Act 1971

Finding a way forward – balancing utilisation and protection

70. It is quite clear that the Department of Conservation – and in this instance the Auckland Conservancy – is aggressively pursuing a marine reserves agenda.  The NZ RLIC believes that the agenda reflects both political and departmental ambitions that are hardly likely to be deterred by relatively small numbers of aggrieved fishermen – be they commercial or non-commercial – given the authority vested in the Minister of Conservation and the environmental protection policies articulated by the current Government.

71. The NZ RLIC notes with interest that the background to the current application places considerable emphasis on the terrestrial environment of Great Barrier Island and the fact that the majority of the land bordering the north-east coast of the island is public conservation land.  Almost from the outset the marine reserve proposal, now the current application, has been pushed hard by the Auckland Conservancy.  An observer could reasonably conclude that the applicant proceeded on the basis that 50,000 hectares of coastal marine area was wanted (to complement the terrestrial reserve and fulfil a more eco-centric “earth to ocean, blue/green corridor” philosophy) rather than justified by the need to protect marine biodiversity for the purposes of scientific study.

72. It is the view of the NZ RLIC that the Minister of Conservation cannot be satisfied on the evidence contained in this current application that the exclusion of fishing from greater than 50,000 hectares of the QMA 1 and CRA 2 coastal marine area can be justified.  However it is highly likely that the Minister himself will disagree with that view.  He has certainly disagreed with objectors to other marine reserves [11].

73. If the Minister of Fisheries can be persuaded that the Minister of Conservation is right and that the NZ RLIC and other objectors are wrong, then the tension, mistrust and occasional open hostility that marks the existing relationship between fishing interests (both commercial and non-commercial) and the Department of Conservation will be heightened by the declaration of the Aotea (Great Barrier) Marine Reserve.  In that situation the implementation of a marine reserves agenda and/or the community acceptance of a protectionist mantra from politicians and Government agencies is inevitably fraught with potential protest, criticism, litigation and delay.

74. The applicant for the Aotea (Great Barrier Island) marine reserve has essentially “bought off” objections to the marine reserve application which in the applicant’s estimation may have been upheld by the Ministers of Conservation and Fisheries and thereby compromised the Auckland Conservancy’s marine reserves agenda.

75. It is hard to reconcile the concessions that are being promised to a select few given that the common law right to fish applies to all New Zealand citizens.  The applicant has publicly derided the concerns of the Auckland recreational fishing community on the basis that few vessels use the area proposed as a reserve.  Yet the concerns of significantly fewer individuals who live adjacent to the area are answered with concessions of exclusive access to fish a public resource.

76. It is also difficult to understand why all commercial fishing within the marine reserve boundary will be prohibited when much of the activity related to lobsters and kina is conducted within the 200 metre swathes conceded to selected persons.

77. As a general principle the NZ RLIC promotes a “one out, all out” policy in relation to areas closed to fishing. However the concessions granted by the applicant in this instance show a glimmer of hope that marine reserve proponents might be encouraged to adopt a more responsible and responsive approach to providing opportunity adjustments if fishing must be excluded from an area to meet the purposes of the Marine Reserves Act

78. The currency used to settle the grievance with selected persons [12] on Great Barrier Island is an enhanced and exclusive fishing opportunity.  Setting aside the implicit discrimination between “resident” and non-resident fisherfolk, or the absolute discrimination between “residents” and all commercial fishermen, the key issue is that the applicant has recognised the potential opportunity cost to some of the existing extractive users and has dealt with it in a mutually agreed manner.  The only problem associated with that situation is the applicant’s failure to properly acknowledge, let alone assign equal importance to the opportunity cost to all extractive users, by category and by classification.

79. The Aotea (Great Barrier Island) application is perhaps the catalyst for DOC and the Minister of Conservation to take a more strategic pause to reflect on how the competing philosophies of utilisation whilst ensuring sustainability and absolute protection can best be reconciled.  The sustainable utilisation of seafood resources in New Zealand is underpinned by a robust property rights regime.  There are simply no excuses for not pursuing property rights solutions to the competing interests that arise when changing Government priorities and societal expectations overtake established and sustainable extractive use of marine resources.

80. In the meantime, the NZ RLIC submits that the Minister of Conservation should uphold the NZ RLIC and other seafood industry stakeholder objections made to the declaration of the Aotea (Great Barrier Island) Marine Reserve and instruct the applicant to thoroughly reconsider the need for, the location of, and the real costs and benefits of a no-take marine protected area in the waters surrounding Great Barrier Island.

[11]  Southland Times June 5th 2004 – “Mr. Carter launched a stinging attack on the Southland Recreational Fishers Association opposed to the (Ulva Island) marine reserve … Mr. Carter said silly objections from selfish groups were slowing the drive towards the Government’s aim of vesting 10 percent of New Zealand coastline as marine reserves …”  Mr. Carter has since corrected the 10 percent aim to one of “marine protected areas”.
[12]  Not all of whom are confirmed in the current application as being residents of Great Barrier Island – which on the face of the application seems to be the qualification for being granted an exclusive fishing right. (Sections 5.1, 5.2 and 5.3 of the current application).

Yours sincerely
NZ Rock Lobster Industry Council

Daryl Sykes
Executive Officer
Research Programme Manager

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