Submission on the Marine Reserves Bill 2002.

Floor Anthoni, Paul Barnes, Scott Macindoe

To: -
The Local Government and Environment Select Committee
Bowen House,
Parliament Buildings,

1.0 Introduction
After studying the proposed Marine Reserves Act 2002 (presently in its stage as a Government Bill before Select Committee), we are at odds with so many of its clauses that our submission recommends, indeed insists on, abolishing the Bill as it now stands. We go a step further by proposing the abolishment of the MRA altogether, and to accommodate marine reserves under the Fisheries Act, which provides the more flexible and convenient vehicle. This would also bring all kinds of marine conservation tools together under one umbrella, while also providing all necessary linkages with other legislation.

Although we are not, in principle, against marine conservation and marine reserves, we find serious flaws with the ways in which these are seen as the only solution towards conservation of biodiversity and saving our seas. But other matters are seriously flawed as well. Our submission thus covers the following main items:

We see the timing of this Bill as ill chosen, with an over-arching Oceans Policy in view. It is therefore likely to undergo further changes, leading to unnecessary duplication of work, more submissions and more aggravation of the Public. Representative Organisations like NZRFC, NZBGFC and option4, are stressed to the maximum, under a barrage of ill-chosen proposals for law changes, fisheries management directives and marine reserve applications. Such stresses will inevitably lead to poor discussion and consideration of alternatives, and ultimately to poor legislation. It would also give the public insufficient time to educate themselves about such matters in order to play a more pro-active role.

We find that one of the main obstacles to good legislation, as to what we must do to save our seas, is our poor understanding of the marine environment. That includes not only the public, but also, relatively speaking, fisheries managers, DoC and the scientific community. It would consequently be unwise to make major decisions today that will later become an unaffordable burden for our children. For good marine-environmental decisions and solutions, society obviously need more time, and one needs to proceed with more care.

We question the urgency behind this Bill, considering that our seas do not suffer the threats of development for building and living, and major habitat change through the equivalent of deforestation and farming, invasive species and introduced predators. We don't live in the sea; there is no roading; no farming of the soil. By and large, our seas have suffered only little change from mechanical intervention, and what has been damaged as such, has been damaged a long time ago. To make comparisons between our seas and our national parks is far-fetched, since our national parks constitute essentially useless tracts of lands that are inaccessible and unproductive. By comparison, every bit of our coastal seas is valuable, accessible and productive.

We disagree with the political urge to have 10% of our coast in marine reserves by a certain date. To drive the conservation effort of a largely unknown environment for the sole purpose of winning votes from armchair conservationists, whose knowledge of the marine environment is light, is to be condemned.

3.0 Scope
Article 5 defines the scope of the Marine Reserves Act, applying it to the foreshore, internal waters, territorial sea, exclusive economic zone or an international strait. It is our conviction that each law must be able to be enforced and policed, and seen to be enforced, or be doomed bad law. We have evidence that the Department of Conservation is not the proper agency to have sufficient presence in these waters, particularly those of the EEZ. We question therefore the whole purpose of having a Marine Reserves Act (1971, or 2002) when most of our marine conservation estate will eventually lie outside the effective reach of DoC, as it already does. Abolishing the MRA1971 altogether, and accommodating it under the Fisheries Act, would therefore make good sense. We also question the Department's knowledge of matters of the sea.

4.0 Purpose
Article 7 defines the purpose of the Act as: to conserve indigenous marine biodiversity . . . for current and future generations by preserving and protecting within marine reserves ... etc.  We find serious flaws in this definition of purpose for the following reasons:

4.1 Conservation is the act of taking all (human-caused) negative impacts and threats away, not just fishing. In recent decades the main threats to our coastal seas have been driven by poor land management, population growth, climate change (intensive rains) and change of land use (dairying):
4.1.1 Eutrophication (over-nourishment) with serious unbalancing of planktonic ecosystems, is caused by farm runoff and human sewage. Such eutrophication has demonstrated to breed very poisonous plankton blooms, resulting in visible mass mortality of fish of all species, and organisms of all phyla (main groups). It has also led to strangulation of scallops and other sessile organisms (1983), closure of marine farming (mussels) and coastal fisheries (shellfish).
4.1.2  Sedimentation from excessive erosion of the land, resulting in suffocation of marine organisms and the death of kelp beds due to the lack of light. Previous Governments thought it wise to cut the subsidy on fertiliser, but this is now hitting back with a vengeance as our hill country washes into the sea at 20-30 times their natural rate.
4.1.3 Poisons from biocides and industrial pollution, having increasingly noticeably, causing lasting effects on the marine food chains, although this is still poorly understood and researched.
None of these impacts are remedied or addressed by the creation of marine reserves.
4.2 Marine reserves for biodiversity? The Act and the Biodiversity Strategy find marine reserves the ideal and only vehicle to protect marine biodiversity, but there has been no scientific proof that this will be the case in New Zealand.
4.2.1 De-facto marine reserves: we have in our territorial seas large tracts of de-facto marine reserves (shipping lanes, marine cables, etc.), in which fishing and/or anchoring has been prohibited for many decades, far earlier than the first marine reserve (1975). Yet their benefit to biodiversity has neither been studied nor proven. What's more, the fish stocks in these areas have declined as they did elsewhere, which questions the whole purpose of near-coastal marine reserves.
4.2.2 Main threats not prevented: knowing furthermore that the main threats to biodiversity are not addressed by marine reserves, we find the Act has no reason for its existence. For instance, a marine reserve does not prevent mud from entering, or poisonous plankton blooms from occurring.
4.2.3 Marine research, education, recreation?: the original MRA1971 creates marine reserves for the purpose of marine research, and one cannot have issue with this in certain suitable places and for other suitable reasons. One may also wish them for education or recreation, but to expect them to preserve biodiversity is pure imagination.
4.2.4 Offshore islands: marine reserves will, however, work in those places where extraction remains the primary threat, such as around our offshore islands and sea mounts, but it is there that DoC has poor presence and the Act gives poor protection and enforcement.

Article 7 continues to specify mutually exclusive sets like 'internationally or nationally', which means 'everywhere' (7b), and 'common ecosystems... or outstanding, rare, distinctive, ..' (7a,b), which means 'any ecosystem'. Such hastily drafted wordings do not inspire a sense of thoroughness and public confidence.

5.0 Principles
We have difficulty in understanding how the principles listed in article 9, will achieve the purpose of the Act in article 7. Our understanding of biodiversity and the way nature works, consists of the following attributes:

5.1 Sustainability: sustainability is determined by reserve design, size, location, overcapacity, isolation from unsafe places, and connectivity with other safe places. To make reserves work, they must be designed with care. However, we have evidence that such care is not exercised, given the marine reserves passed into law so far. The fact that any person or group will be able to propose marine reserves, furthermore, does not help. The Goat Island Marine Reserve is a living testimony to failed design, with its ribbon shape, boundaries not corresponding to habitat boundaries, and insufficient 'feeding grounds' of flat sea bottom. Since the 1990s it has been degrading alarmingly due to mud from adjacent roads and farms and eroding coasts, resulting in loss of species, and the wholesale walkout of crayfish.
5.2 Safety: conservation works only when all (human-made) threats are removed, now and forever.
5.3 Resilience: protected areas must show to improve with time, restoring to a more natural state with more species and more of each. However, most of the marine reserves created in the past quarter century, do not and will not recover, due to their state of continuous and permanent degradation. But those located in clear waters fare better (Poor Knights, Mayor Island) while the Kermadecs, due to their remoteness and low productivity, have always enjoyed de-facto protection.
5.4 Adaptability: not only species and communities must be able to adapt with time, but also management and procedure. It is sad to see an Act meddle with management issues and procedures, setting these in concrete, rather than allowing them to adapt and evolve with time. It is bad law to specify the how, rather than the desired outcomes or directions. Consequently we wish to remove large sections from this Act, which includes articles 10-18 of Part 2, and the entire Part 3. Management issues can and should be dealt with by the Department responsible, in the form of flexible guidelines that adapt to each reserve while allowing them to change with time to reflect our gain in knowledge and experience. This includes the appointment of management committees and the way these go about their duties.

The way the principles have been worded in the Act, is either fuzzy (9ab) or does not endorse the purpose of the Act (9cde) or is superfluous (10). It further demonstrates the Department's lack of understanding. Nowhere is reference made to the principles outlined above, which should be paramount.

We have difficulty understanding how historic material plays a role in matters of the environment (9c). All related clauses should be removed from this Act, as should all sentences referring to guns, firearms and ammunition.

6.0 Procedures
Part 4 defines the procedures for establishing marine reserves. Although we have many issues with this part, we do not wish to expand on these in this submission, as others already have. We largely concur with the need to have clearly defined procedures so that the Public knows what to expect. However, we do not concur with the explicit need of enacted timeframes, because there exists no urgency for marine reserves, as opposed to other measures for saving our seas (fishing controls, care of the land, sewage recycling). Furthermore, set timeframes could cynically be explained as an attempt to fast-track marine reserves unduly.

7.0 Enforcement
Part 5 reflects the most draconian part of the Act, in which DoC even wishes to overturn legal principles of Law and human rights. We insist that any accused person is considered not guilty until proven guilty (104.4). It is unacceptable to reverse this principle.

Part 5 with its draconian powers, gives more convincing reasons to abolish the MRA1971 and MRA2002 entirely, and to accommodate marine reserves under the Fisheries Act, which already has appropriate articles of enforcement, the means to do so, and trained officers with experience.

We, the undersigned, would like to be heard in support of this submission.

Thankyou for the opportunity to contribute to this process.

Yours sincerely,

Dr J Floor Anthoni
Director: Seafriends Marine Conservation and Education Centre
7 Goat Island Rd; Leigh R.D.5; New Zealand
Phone 09 422 6212  Fax: 09 422 6245
Seafriends web site: http://www.seafriends.org.nz/
E-mail - sea.friends@xtra.co.nz

Paul Barnes
Project Coordinator - option4
18 Styca Place, Glen Eden, Auckland
Phone 8182146

Scott Macindoe
Working Group Member - option4
4 Almorah Place, Newmarket, Auckland
Phone 09 5205809

Submission to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee on the Marine Reserves Bill
Auckland, Monday 14 April 2003, 12:20-12:35
Speech held while presenting our submission (5 minutes talking, 10 minutes questioning)
I am here to make submissions to the proposed Marine Reserves Act, but I feel like a dentist having to fit a new denture to a patient dying on his death bed. Making submissions about the denture (the Act) just does not make sense, since there is so much else wrong. Let me summarise my main concerns:
  1. The Marine Reserves Act is a costly mistake and and unnecessary duplication. It is a disaster document.
  2. The Department of Conservation is the wrong caretaker of the sea.
  3. Knowledge is not only grossly inadequate but wrong, and often deliberately wrong for political reasons.
  4. The Government's policy on marine biodiversity is seriously flawed.
Let's start with the most important one. The biodiversity strategy sees marine reserves as the only solution for conserving biodiversity in the sea. This logic is seriously wrong, let me explain. Whereas nature reserves on large continents work for biodiversity, they do not work on islands like New Zealand, where introduced invasive species such as rats, cats, dogs, pigs, goats, deer, wasps, spiders, ants, moths, trout and salmon still roam free, not to mention the many invasive plant species. Our inaccessible and infertile national parks are simply not working for conservation and biodiversity, although they do prevent logging, burning and development, which is a prerequisite. On the other hand, in the sea the situation is totally different because the entirely accessible and productive marine environment has not been logged or burnt, and there are few invasive species. To claim that we need 10% protection in the sea because we have 30% protection on land, is plain nonsense.

Biodiversity is all about sustainable populations of all species, which does not require that these must be pristine or unexploited. For the non-fished species, for instance, a marine reserve does nothing. For the fished migratory species it provides no protection either and for the fished resident species it does not provide sustainable populations. Marine reserves do not protect against suffocating mud from the land, or against dense and poisonous plankton blooms from sewage and runoff, now the most serious and seemingly uncontrollable threats. Thus marine reserves simply do not work for biodiversity but they can work for research, recreation and education.

An important natural law for conservation says that conservation works only if all threats are taken away. Clearly, killing rats but letting cats free to roam, does not work. Likewise, wherever other threats than fishing remain in the sea, marine reserves won't work. In the past 18 years the threats from erosion, sedimentation, sewage and dense and poisonous plankton blooms have become the main threats to our coastal waters, threatening unfished and fished species alike, and more so their vulnerable offspring. 12 of the 16 marine reserves are not working because they are degrading from year to year. They are unsustainable. Even in our oldest and most hallowed marine reserve at Goat Island, since 1998 nearly all crayfish have walked out because of environmental degradation. It has become a failed marine reserve in a very short time span, but the public is not supposed to know. Not long ago the entire Wellington Harbour died, before scientists could identify the cause. Obviously, marine reserves do not protect against these new threats, which have become larger than fishing could ever be. Thus, due to changed environmental conditions, coastal marine reserves can no longer work. It makes no sense to steal the rights of others in order to set aside areas in the sea that do not deliver.

So, the very reasons for having the Act, and marine reserves, are nonsense. What else is also nonsense? For this I have prepared two supporting documents:

  1. Frequently Asked Questions about marine reserves. (22 pages) It gives you a quick primer on marine conservation, marine reserves and the fallacies in our thinking.
  2. Myths and fallacies exposed - annotated speeches and press releases of ministers and organisations. (7 pages) It shows you how easily many lies are told, often unknowingly. It represents a tacit testament to our present-day stupidity.
I urge you to read both with care, because they invalidate the Government's policies, the need for a Marine Reserves Act, the need for marine reserves, the urgency behind these, and much more. They highlight the voids in our knowledge and how scientists have deliberately misled the public. Note for instance the many mistakes in the speech of the Minister, and those who advise him.

To any person with only the slightest amount of common sense, it will become obvious that the whole marine conservation process must be put on hold indefinitely until all fallacies have been ironed out and new, better policies have emerged, that do work for saving our seas. There simply exists no valid reason for urgency, in order to cast our mistakes in concrete and to saddle our children with unbearable burdens of restrictions that do not work.

I am sure that you will take my assertions and writings to heart, because one thing is certain: as from tomorrow you will not be able to say that you did not know.

I will now be available for further questions.

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