Myths and fallacies exposed, part 3

Dissected by Floor Anthoni


-- seafriends home -- conservation index -- reserves war -- Rev 20030623

Let's have more marine reserves off our coastline
Min of Conservation Chris Carter addressing a local Forest and Bird meeting in Hastings
15 May 2003 [Hawke's Bay Today, in the column 'Over the Fence' with Ewan McGregor]

Conservation Minister Chris Carter was in Hawke's Bay last week and addressed a very well-attended meeting in Hastings, where he spoke mainly about marine reserves. This is an idea whose time has taken some time to come but come it certainly has. New Zealand has the fourth largest marine territory in the world, and a 10,000km immensely irregular and interesting coastline. We have great scope for this type of environmental protection. In fact, we are world leaders.

The idea for marine reserves has been around for a long time, borne out by the 1300 MPAs established worldwide by1998. The dates for some of the better known ones are: 1935 Florida Keys, 1936 Gt Barrier Reef, 1941 Phillipines, 1958 Bahamas, 1960 Mexico, all in mostly tropical seas. So New Zealand is not a leader in timeliness. Neither is it a leader in the number of reserves, considering the many countries having over 80 marine reserves. By contrast, NZ has only 18. The problem is that protagonists claim that we are losing a race, but is that really a good enough reason for having more marine reserves and for the haste to have them established?
Ironically, stemming from the era of the Beatles, conservation with marine reserves is now an idea whose time has passed.
We started to put substantial areas of land - national parks - into full protection about a century ago and today no less than 30 percent of our land area, much of it privately owned, is in conservation reserve. Yet it was not until 1975 that we created our first marine reserve. Today we have 18 marine reserves, although this represents just one percent of our marine area in the vicinity of the main islands - there are large reserves at the Kermadec and Auckland Islands.
The comparison between national parks and the sea is made every time, even though the Minister should be aware that the sea is an entirely different place. Our national parks are areas consisting largely of rock and ice and steep unproductive land. It is almost impossible to get there, to farm it or to pull the logs out. It is useless land, de-facto protected. By contrast, the sea is accessible, harvestable and productive everywhere. It has never been burnt or farmed, or highways and houses built in. But the difference goes further. Our land reserves are poor conservation estate by the continued presence of foreign predators, grazers and invasive plants. It is of no use to conservation. This is not so in the sea, which is still largely in an unmodified state, except where it has been degrading.
The claim of 30% is pushing credibility rather far, because this includes a large part occupied by tiny recreation reserves, farm parks, road reserves and so on.
Why marine reserves? Well for starters the fish need a break somewhere. We have wildlife sanctuaries - had them really from the year dot - because it's logical to provide a refuge for breeding stock to sustain future harvests, quite apart from the ethos of conservation. Now, at least in some parts of the coastline, the fish can breed and if they are game, so to speak, take their chances away from the refuge.
Again a false comparison between land and sea. Wildlife sanctuaries are not there to provide refuge for a breeding stock. The forest is protected from being burnt and logged, which would alter the environment in an irreversible way. It is hoped that this will save native species, but their numbers are still in decline because of introduced predators. These places are unsustainable in the long run. Land reserve boundaries are clearly marked by the presence of agricultural land surrounding land reserves, which keeps the wildlife inside. However, migrating species such as wading birds, are roaming free.
By comparison, the kelp forests of the sea have never been burnt; the sea bed has not made room for urbanisation, roading and agriculture. These threats are unknown to the sea. Fish can feed and reproduce everywhere and do not need marine reserves. Because a reserve's boundary is not marked for fishes, the benefit a marine reserve may bring is really very low compared to the sacrifice. But reserves are ideal for places where people come to look at wildlife, provided one can get there easily and the water is clear.
Marine reserves also look to be a major attraction for tourists. The Leigh Reserve north of Auckland is now a major money-spinner from people who like to look at fish in their natural environment.
Reserves attract tourists only where they are accessible, while providing a varied environment in clear water. Only three out of 18 reserves would qualify. The Leigh reserve is not a major money-spinner since its benefit amounts to no more than income for 2-4 families, whereas it also displaced an equal number of families who depend on fishing. Since this reserve has been degrading, its economic benefit has halved. It has become a loss-loss situation. The Poor Knights marine reserve has seen an increase in divers from overseas, but since its permanent closure, also a 60% loss in local fishing charter business. Whereas diving business increased, a much larger loss occurred from a collapse in the charter fleet.
Hawke's Bay, as is now well known, has its own reserve on the Central Hawke's Bay coast at Aramoana, the Te Angiangi Reserve. This is a 3km length of coastline and extends 1km out. The total area is 446 ha. Don't ask me where the extra 146ha come from, but I read it in a book so it must be right. On-shore reserve no doubt.
By comparison, the area of the Goat Island marine reserve is 520ha. This is considered hopelessly inadequate to provide a tangible benefit to the environment, because the boundary effect (loss of fish) extends up to the middle of the reserve.
The feature of Te Angiangi is the 'inter-tidal platforms' that are so common and rather unique to this part of the coast. These are dead-flat mudstone reefs that extend out from the golden sand and are exposed at low water. One wonders how many millions of times they have breathed the air between tides. The cleaves and irregular margin of these platforms provide habitat for a wide variety of marine life. About 200 species of seaweed, invertebrates and fish have been identified in this reserve.
Are these platforms threatened in any way? Is the reserve providing economic benefit? Has it been rebounding after closure? If not, why have a reserve?
So marine reserves are a great idea. But getting to the point of their gazetting is usually a political maze, with various sub-tribes, commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen, perhaps aquaculturalists, bach owners, conservationists and other interests - all understandably having an intensely conflicting input into the process. Still, as recent history has shown, the thrust is toward conservation.
The real idea whose time has come is the realisation that coastal reserves can no longer work because of the devastating influence from mud, dense plankton blooms and bacteria. Marine reserves cannot protect against these threats. In order to save the sea, we must save the land first. Land conservation is the new thrust. It simply has to be, since we are losing our land 20-30 times faster than it can repair itself. We have become unchallenged world leaders for the amount of soil loss per person.
One of the worries about the preservation of marine ecology is the invasion of alien seaweeds and animals. This obviously has been creeping up on us for years as ships have been emptying their bilges and other contaminants into our seas and harbours. It probably has been a case of out of sight, out of mind. At least with land-based weed invasion we have been able to see the degradation, which manifestly has been no guarantee of control. But how do you control seaweed and animal pests I have no idea. This really is a conundrum.
The number of purposely introduced species of plant and animal on land amounts to thousands, whereas those introduced in the sea to less than hundred, all by accident. There is just no comparison. The sea offers more resilience to these species because areas in the sea are more connected and less isolated than areas on land and islands. Because the sea also remains in a more natural state, the introduced species cannot cause the kind of harm they do on land. New species have to compete with existing ones, while tolerating conditions that are unnatural to them. Alien species settle mostly in degraded habitats where competition is absent.
Anyway, is there a will to establish more marine reserves in Hawke's Bay, and if so, where? Let's hope so. Time will tell.
The general public is beginning to understand that coastal marine reserves do no longer work. Twelve out of sixteen coastal marine reserves are degrading. Do we really want more?

Marine reserves are essential
Letter to the Editor, by Kitt Wyatt, Snells Beach. Rodney Times Tu 11 Mar 2003

I am writing in response to all the narrow-minded, self-indulged and selfish people who don't seem to be able to look at the bigger picture regarding the proposed marine reserve around Tiritiri Island. I make no apology for my original letter. Yes, I can see a lot of angry people out there.

Kitt must understand that the most fervent protagonists for saving our seas are found among fishermen who see the deterioration in our seas. But these people can also see how the benefits of marine reserves have been overstated. Kitt would be angry herself, if uninformed people came to tell her what to do in her house, a place she knows better than anyone else, particularly if such people made her do things that make no sense. The sea around Tiri is such a house for fishermen, and what DoC says makes no sense to them, for very good reasons. Perhaps Kitt may wish to know these [1].
protected areas near Tiritiri MatangiRegardless of where a marine reserve is proposed, opposition will come. If Kawau Bay [by Kitt's home] was proposed, I would still hold the same opinion. Marine reserves are essential for the preservation and culture of species and subspecies of marine life.
Fishermen are not against marine reserves, but they want them to work. They want to do the right thing for the right reasons at the right time. Kitt would have no problem with that. But Kitt would be outraged when lied to by the people she is supposed to trust. Well, that is exactly what happened. DoC and the NZUA have been misrepresenting their proposal by using underwater photographs that were not taken near Tiri and also by not showing the large area of de-facto marine reserve nearby (see map). Fishermen have for a very long time (over 40 years) been making a sacrifice by not fishing inside these areas. These de-facto marine reserves must make a substantial difference to the culture of species and subspecies, one would think. But the fact of the matter is that scientists have never verified this. However, fishermen equipped with fishfinders can confirm that this is not the case. Why?
My letter and name have been used as a target for misfiring yahoos who show little care or consideration for future society's benefit. The bigger picture is this - there are three proposed areas; either work together or carry on raping and pillaging the sea until there is no more and it's too late and everyone misses out.
Raping and pillaging are emotive words, used by people who do not know the sea, but who are alarmed. But the sea does not work like that. It is still a wild environment where fish eat fish. Hunting and being eaten is a natural part of that environment. But it is true that there are problems. It is also true that New Zealand fishermen are working hard to set quotas and methods to prevent these problems. What is so appealing about these efforts, is that they work in all places, addressing the causes of the problems, which marine reserves don't do.
Please forgive me for caring and showing interest and support for generations. How truly selfish of me.
There are other factors increasing the pressure on our fish stocks. Will you have more than two babies? Where do you get your fish from or will you stop eating fish? How do you envisage this country to pay for your gasoline, car and other imported goods? Are you caring enough to reduce immigration? Do you mind paying more taxes? What about compensating the fishermen? How much of the burden are YOU willing to bear? Think about it.
Kitt Wyatt, Snells Beach.

Everyone is entitled to their beliefs and uninformed opinions,
but these must not be used to harm others. - democratic obligation

[1] Visit the independent website of Seafriends at and look for the chapters on Marine Conservation and Frequently Asked Questions.

DOC's job to preserve natural character
Article by Peter Crabb, NZUA. Rodney Times 20 Mar 2003

I write in response to the article 'Marine reserve opponents claim bias and conflict of interest', March 6. The claim by Tiritiri Action Group and Jane West that Government departments, whose job it is to facilitate marine reserve applications as part of the statutory process, are in conflict of interest should be clarified.

Judging from past experience with the process of creating marine reserves, proponents and objectors have become worried about fairness. The process, entirely conducted 'within closed rooms' by DoC, has not been verifiable and open. A letter by Peter Crabb, sent out to a large number of opponents, was not very reassuring to say the least. Read it to be amazed.. []
One of the Department of Conservation's aims is to conserve the natural character and quality of New Zealand's coastal and marine environments. DOC is also guided by Government policy, including the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy, which aims to protect 10 percent of New Zealand's marine environment by 2010.
Would DOC have the courage to tell our Goverment that they are wrong? Would it recommend to abolish the RMA, and place all marine reserves in control of people who understand the sea, work with it and have presence there? Would it care to tell the Government that its Biodiversity Strategy is flawed? That coastal marine reserves are no longer working? Why not? Because of conflict of interest perhaps? Obviously the likes of TAG and Option4 are needed to redress past, present and future mistakes. DOC is of no use in this, neither is the NZUA nor Forest&Bird.
DOC therefore supports in principle community-driven marine protection initiatives like our marine reserve proposal. We are pleased to have DOC assisting us on issues related to the establishment of marine reserves. Further we have had several discussions about the marine reserve proposal with staff from the Ministry of Fisheries and they have attended meetings of fishing clubs at our invitation. The ministry [MFish] is also guided by Government policy. They have advised us on fishing-related issues but have not indicated support or opposition to this proposal.
Under the MRA71 the Minister of Fisheries must concur with an application for it to proceed. In the proposed MRA2003, he will be cut out. This is a worrisome development for many who frequent the sea.
On the public discussion document distributed by the New Zealand Underwater Association, no option for a marine park is given because this is an application for a marine reserve under The Marine Reserves Act 1971. This reserve will however fit into the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park as one of a network of fully protected areas.
The MRA71 is a sledge hammer and the only tool that DoC can wield. It closes areas completely and forever. It is the wrong tool for saving our seas. The public wants more flexibility and so does the environment.
The network idea of fully protected areas is very much a myth having no scientific base or proof.
The Marine Park idea as it is being proposed, excludes all commercial fishing by a proposed amendment to the Fisheries Act. This too is a worrisome development. Imagine the whole Hauraki Gulf Marine Park closed to commercial fishing.
The photographs in the discussion document illustrate well the area both above and below water, and criticising during which weather conditions the photos are taken would seem to be indicative of having little to criticise at all.
Incorrect. The underwater photos shown in the discussion document were not taken at Tiritiri, leaving the impression of a pristine area, which it is not. They deceive the public as to the real situation, which is an environment degraded by sewage and mud. The brochure also leaves out the large de-facto protected cableway zones, straddling the area [see map above]. It was cleverly designed to fool the public.
Cr Harding seems to be suggesting that we wait until the area has been entirely fished out before we create a marine reserve. There may seem to be an abundance of fish out there, but this is a relative thing. Older folks around Rodney may remember something completely different and the timescales for environmental impacts can exceed people's memory and or lifespan.
Cr Harding made no such suggestion at all. When fish seem to be abundant year after year, they must be abundant. If it waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck it must be a duck. If degradation goes so slowly, why the hurry with this reserve? What people are saying is that a marine reserve here makes no difference to the environment. The snapper fished here are migratory. What others are saying is to look at the Long Bay reserve nearby. It is not working. Closure made no difference to its rate of decay. Why repeat the mistake?
Upon what Mayor Law is basing his comments about the level of consultation is confusing as New Zealand Underwater has consulted widely, as the number of submissions we have received from a variety of stakeholders would indicate. The media interest and activity of my telephone indicate wide consultation.
DoC is a centrally led and well-funded organisation fighting a war against a splintered and entirely voluntary (ill-funded) resistance. It is an unfair war. Democratic principle demands that time schedules allow for plenty of consultation. The most important component of consultation is education. In this respect the public is better informed than DoC, NZUA or Forest&Bird. Visit to become informed.
The period for consultation and public discussion runs until March 31. Peoplecan also visit our website at for more information.

Peter Crabb, Environmental Co-ordinator, New Zealand Underwater Association.

Progress on Tiritiri Marine Reserve Proposal
By Tony Poulsen, 30 May 2003

Gidday Lindsay, thank you for keeping me informed on the Tiritiri Marine Reserve proposal.

I am an extremely enthusiastic angler venturing into the Waitemata Harbour and Hauraki Gulf at least fortnightly. Through our holiday home in Russell Bay of Islands, my family and I enjoy many days in our boat, fishing. As a successful businessman and family man I believe that I have been able to make the most of the recreational opportunities that the marine environment has to offer. The area of the proposed Reserve covers several of my favourite fishing spots that I have frequented often with my family and friends. I have been a committed angler for 35 years and have observed many changes over that time. This is why I feel so passionately about this and other Marine Reserve proposals being mooted.

However, there appears to be a mix up within your organization. I am a fervent supporter of this and all current proposals for marine reserve sites. I embrace fully the Governments agenda on locking up 10-20% of New Zealand's coastline in fully protected marine reserves. Yes, even in my back yard.

Tony's backyard is defined by a fast boat with over one hundred of horsepower drive, spending hundreds of dollars in a weekend. This is not quite like the backyard of a pensioner with a 12ft dinghy and 10 horse outboard, launched from his local beach, to get a feed for sustenance. For one the sea is play, for the other a necessity.
Before embracing the 10-20% coastal lockup as specified in the Biodiversity Strategy, Tony would be wise to consider what we receive in return. The benefit from marine reserves is practically negligible, while the costs amount to about 100 million dollars in lost export revenue, 1000 families on the dole and tens of thousands of fishermen displaced, many of whom are dependent on the sea for sustenance. And all this without compensation!
You state that one of the aims of TAG is to halt all proposals until a National and Regional plan for reserves has been developed. There is a plan in place. That is; to achieve a reserve for 10% of the coast of NZ. Each proposal (plan) within that framework will be judged on it own merits. Obviously this will include National and Regional implications.
When judging the National plan on its merits, it fails on all counts. If it fails at the top, then all other proposals fail for the same reasons. Option4, TAG and others are not against marine reserves, but against having them for the wrong reasons in the wrong places and at the wrong time. Obviously, all marine reserve proposals must be halted first to sort this out.
Also, in this correspondence, you raise several concerns. I am not entirely sure of your arguments for these concerns and this correspondence certainly does not explain them in any sufficient manner.

1: Insufficient public support. This is debatable. What research has TAG conducted to establish this? TAG has included my pro reserve submission in the 6600 submissions presented to NZUA. Obviously there is questionable credibility with this figure, that you suggest opposes the proposal.

What research has Tony done in this regard? DoC held three meetings on the Great Barrier Island, and their proposal was voted down with overwhelming majority in all cases. The Tiritiri proposal has also been voted down with very large numbers of people participating. Tony is unaware of the undemocratic procedures practised by DoC in counting votes, in order to win at all cost.
2: Serious Safety concerns. I am not at all sure how a marine reserve is "unsafe".
If you have a 25ft Haines Hunter, safety does not appear of concern, but consider having a 12ft dinghy.
3: Social. Again, I am unsure how the proposed marine reserve at Tiritiri creates a negative social issue. The proposal does not ban any individual or group from enjoying the area. It does however, exclude harvesting of marine life from the area. The availability of vast expanses of water and coastline etc, much of which is in closer proximity to communities, surely compensates for this.
Have you looked at the map, Tony? Most people on the Whangaroa Peninsula came there to live close by the sea. For them the sea means harvesting, and what they do has been proved to be sustainable. Have another look at the map and proposal, and indicate where productive water is? Most of the area close inshore to other communities is too polluted for fishing. Have you tried fishing there?
4: Economic. What is the dollar value that you attribute to this area? How have you determined this? What plan does TAG have to protect and enhance this value? Why do you believe a reserve has a negative impact on an economy? Surely examples as varied as the Poor Knights Marine Reserve and the Kenyan and South African Game reserves would contradict your argument.
The Poor Knights marine reserve has economic value because it has good access, clear water and a rich marine environment. By contrast, Tiri is highly degraded with dirty water most of the year. Nobody in his right mind would pay to dive there. Glassbottom boats would not be able to make a living, neither would dive charters. To compare the NZ sea with a Kenyan game reserve shows utter ignorance of the marine environment.
5: Rides rough shot over various customary management "tools". In the 35 years that I have enjoyed harvesting the marine bounty of this area and many other areas, I have not become familiar with any working customary management tool. You may be referring to Maori Mataitai(?) or some other system, rahui etc, however, as stated, can you demonstrate how they are working and for what purpose are they working and for whom? Of course you may be referring to the catch limits set for recreational fishing. What is the total catch from this area? Is it more or less than previous years? How would TAG suggest managing this to grow or retain this catch?
None of the above arguments has any relevance to marine reserves. The main problem is that the Marine Reserves Act (MRA71) allows no flexibility such as 'take a little'. It is intended to close all harvesting forever. For a marine scientists such a situation can be beneficial, although even they need dispensation for taking sea life into the laboratory. We have outgrown this primitive concept, and marine reserves today must accommodate more flexible management by local communities, with the budgets allocated for these places. The MRA must be abolished, and all marine reserved placed under Fisheries where all other conservation tools are, including Mataitai and Taiapure. Obviously, the process must be halted completely to achieve this.
I do not believe that to utilise this area as it has always been used is a right. A right has morality, equity and suggests entitlement.
Unfortunately, New Zealand does not have a constitution that defines rights, but the Americans have. Customary use is definitely a right for them, and when this right is taken away, they have the right to be compensated.
Would TAG suggest that land owners should be able to cut down 1000 year old native trees as their forefathers had, is a right? Would TAG suggest that landowners should be able to drain swamps and divert rivers as their forefathers had, is a right? Would TAG suggest that, as a right, people should be able to build boat sheds and jetties off beaches because their forefathers had. Does TAG believe that groups of people should be able to introduce foreign animals into our environment, as our forefathers had a free reign in doing, is a right? To view our historical usage of an area as a right is to view the future by looking through the past.
Indeed our forefathers had such rights, and we still have. However, overriding legislation has made the exercising of such rights very difficult. The main fallacy here is that land issues are used to argue about the sea, which is like comparing apples with pears. The cutting down of native forest is an irreversible act, for which there is no equivalent in the sea. A native forest takes many centuries to repair. A kelp forest a fraction of a decade. The equivalent of draining swamps and diverting rivers has not happened in the sea. Invasive species have had very little impact in our seas. For these reasons and others, the sea is still very much a pristine environment, compared to the land, even under pressure of exploitation.
It is a privilege that we have all been able to utilise this area as we have seen fit. We have a duty to fully protect some areas, to allow them to return to as close to pristine conditions as possible. This duty is for our future generations. They should have the right to see what life under the sea was once like. This should not be limited to a handful of distant islands nobody will ever visit or isolated pockets 2 hours drive from ones backyard. No individual or group can morally or equitably believe that they have the entitlement to adjusting 100% of the natural wilderness as they see fit. This is playing at being God.
It appears that Tony has never actually looked into the water and certainly not under water. Despite his claims of being a frequent fisherman, he has remained unaware of the devastating degradation from mud and sewage. The area around Tiri is a bad example and will never return to anything looking like pristine. It will just degrade further as time proceeds.
Indeed the majority of New Zealanders (over 99.9%) are doing exactly what he detests: adjusting the marine environment with devastating consequences, by living wastefully, having large guzzling cars and boats, holiday homes and more. By acquiring the imported niceties of life, they put pressure on the export sector consisting of fisheries, agriculture and forestry. This pressure leads to overharvesting and accelerated erosion, resulting in almost irreversible damage to the sea. It is like playing God.
I support Marine Reserves - even in my back yard
Tony is but one of a large number of misinformed people who believe more than they should. We invite you to study the marine reserves issues by visiting the Seafriends web site
Yours sincerely, Tony Poulsen
From: Tony Poulsen []
Sent: Friday, 30 May 2003 11:38 a.m.
To: Lindsay Gregory Cc: