Great Barrier Island Marine Reserve Proposal

The Great Barrier Marine Reserve Proposal was advanced by the Department of Conservation to the formal application stage. the consultation period (2 months) and submissions that came in showed both support and opposition. From a marine protection point of view the proposal offerred some significant opportunities, mainly the shear size involved. It was the first attempt to create a large marine reserve on the New Zealand mainland coast. It had an array of habitats ranging from shallow rocky reefs to deep habitats near the edge of the continental shelf, including some spectaculat deep pinnacle and reef areas. Ultimately the application was turned down via 'non-concurrance from the then Minister of Fisheries. This contradicted and according to the Marine Reserves Act overruled the approval by the Minister of Conservation.  

In the aftermath of the proposal being turned down review of process and decision was nearly absent. We suggest this is an opportunity lost. There are many questions that will remain unanswered regarding this proposal. Most importantly, was the enormous benefits of this proposal weighed against the objections? Were solutions to the impasse preventing approval thoroughly investigated and pursued? How could a proposal coming from a Government department attempting to meet policy and biodiversity goals be dropped in its entirety, especially in the case where the two departments involved came to different decisions? If we needed to learn things from this process why wasn't the review of such an important case as this ever reviewed and shared with the people of New Zealand?

There are no official answers in detail to any of the question raised above, but we can do is take what we can from this experieince. We have brought together here some of the very few news releases from the Government on the decision and an achive of the documents involved from this proposal.  

We start with an exert from an article from Dr Roger Grace introducing the proposal. Roger did some of the research on the proposal area and was active as an advocate for the concept. There are two articles and research report from Roger on the proposal in the download archive below.

A Big Marine Reserve for Great Barrier Island?

By Roger Grace

The Department of Conservation (DOC) has recently released a discussion document on a proposal for a large marine reserve on the remote northeast coast of Great Barrier Island. It is an ambitious project, but has the potential to become one of the greatest marine conservation successes in New Zealand. A real treasure for future generations.

At 56,000ha, it would be by far the biggest marine reserve close to the New Zealand mainland, dwarfing the first marine reserve at Leigh (518ha), and even the large Te Tapuwae O Rongokoko marine reserve (2452ha) north of Gisborne. But the proposed Great Barrier Island marine reserve would still be less than eight percent of the size of the ginormous Kermadec Islands marine reserve (748,000ha).

Most marine reserves around the New Zealand coast are quite small. In fact recent research is showing that bigger reserves would be far more beneficial for some of the more mobile species. Even quite small marine reserves, however, can have really positive effects on aspects of the marine ecology and biodiversity. Small specialised marine reserves in certain areas are fine, but we need large ones too, to get an effective network of these €˜marine national parks€™.

If we are to get anywhere close to the 10% target for marine protection by 2010 as the Government wants, then we will have to start thinking BIG. This proposal certainly qualifies in that respect.

Press Release Statements from the Ministers

Chris Carter 16 June, 2005

A proposal to create a marine reserve off Great Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf has been approved by Conservation Minister Chris Carter, but the reserve will be smaller than originally suggested.

"After careful consideration, I have approved a reserve covering 49,500 hectares on the eastern side of Great Barrier Island, which differs from the original application by the Department of Conservation (DOC)," Mr Carter said.

"Following discussions with Great Barrier Island residents, fishers, and local iwi groups, I have decided to exclude the area around Whangapoua Beach, which reduces the size of the reserve by some 508 hectares. This exclusion is in addition to the exclusion of the adjoining estuary, which was included in DOC's original proposal for the reserve but removed in the formal application to me because of its value to local people.

"The argument for this reserve is very powerful. The marine area it will cover is highly distinctive. There are few if any other locations within the Auckland region, and perhaps New Zealand, with as many different landforms, habitats and species in such close proximity," Mr Carter said.

"Support for the original reserve proposal was strong. Of the 3513 submissions on it, some 2200 were supportive. Nevertheless, I believe inclusion of the Whangapoua Beach area in the reserve would have impacted on local residents who fish in the bay for food."

Mr Carter said he did not accept that recreational fishers from across the wider Auckland region would be significantly affected by the proposed reserve.

"Fishing is very important to the Auckland community, but there are many other fishing spots within easy reach of Auckland and popular holiday spots, including a number of better fishing areas around Great Barrier Island which are outside the proposed reserve.

"The waters within the proposed reserve are isolated and remote. A survey of visible boats undertaken in 2003/4 found that use of the area by recreational fishers was low to moderate even in mid summer," Mr Carter said.

He said DOC's administration of the proposal process had been independently reviewed and cleared as appropriate.

The proposal would now proceed to the Minister of Fisheries for concurrence.

Source Beehive web site


Jim Anderston   15 May, 2008

Minister of Fisheries declines application for marine reserve at Great Barrier Island (Aotea)

Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton today rejected the proposal for a marine reserve covering 495 square kilometres on the northeast coast of Great Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf.

Jim Anderton said he had flown over the proposed reserve, and met with residents and the local hapu, Ngati Rehua, and the iwi, Ngatiwai on Great Barrier Island itself.

“I agree that it is a magnificent area that many value for different reasons. However, I don’t believe the interests of the public would be best served by creating such a large no-take marine reserve in this relatively remote area where access to the sea is a large part of life on the Island.

“Great Barrier Island is isolated with few shops and limited services. Many residents rely on the sea for food. Many also rely on fishing-related tourism, either directly or indirectly.

“While further marine protection could benefit eco-tourism in the area, a large no-take marine reserve may have negative effects on the local lifestyle and economy. I also carefully considered the effects on recreational and commercial fishers who use the area.”

Jim Anderton said that for Ngati Rehua, the marine reserve would have excluded them from some of their traditional fishing grounds and many important wahi tapu sites.

He said the size of the marine reserve would have limited the ability of Ngati Rehua to decide which areas to manage by traditional means.

“It is my responsibility to carefully consider this proposal and the Crown’s obligation to uphold customary fishing rights under the Treaty of Waitangi and the 1992 Fisheries Settlement.

“Balancing marine protection and these varied interests requires careful consideration. The way forward is to use the Marine Protected Areas Policy and Implementation Plan (MPA Policy) to explore further protective measures around Great Barrier Island and the northeast bio-geographical region that extends from the tip of the North Island to East Cape.”

Jim Anderton said many views expressed at his meetings with Great Barrier Island residents, hapu and iwi made it clear there was support for marine conservation.

“However, they want this balanced with their uses, interests and aspirations for Great Barrier Island. I believe the MPA Policy approach will have their support.”


  • The marine reserve application was submitted by the Department of Conservation in 2004.
  • In 2005 the former Minister of Conservation approved the application.
  • As required under the Marine Reserves Act 1971, the former Minister of Conservation sought the agreement of the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Fisheries.
  • The Minister of Transport agreed in 2006.
  • The Ministry of Fisheries undertook further consultation in 2007, and the Minister of Fisheries visited GBI in September 2007. The Minister also met with Ngati Rehua in Auckland.
  • The Ministry of Fisheries provided the Minister with advice in late 2007.
  • Jim Anderton
  • Fisheries and Aquaculture

Source Beehive web site




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