State of Gulf Report a further wake up call

Like a cancer, metre by metre, litre by litre New Zealand’s Hauraki Gulf, the big pond that leads you to New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, is steadily losing its battle to maintain a healthy environment for all marine creatures, birds, and for people to enjoy.

Many of you would be aware of the recent 106 page Report released on the 2nd March 2018 by the Hauraki Gulf Forum which is a statutory body charged with the promotion and facilitation of integrated management and the protection and enhancement of the Hauraki Gulf.

The media have naturally jumped on the data relating to commercial and recreational fishing.

Stating numbers such as the snapper population is approximately 20% of what it was in 1945, and about 50% of marine life in the Gulf has vanished in the past 93 years, and other depressing statistics. This is the fifth such report. The first being published in 2004.

For me the first part of the report was the scariest.

This section looks at the environmental impact on the water quality and the Gulf’s coastal shoreline as urbanisation of land in Auckland and the Coromandel continues unabated.

The list of the environmental and infrastructure problems facing local councils and central Government due to our expanding population, is mind boggling.

The issues that the report lists just seem so massive you wonder how the creeping cancer can be halted. The momentum of urban development and farming on land and in the sea seems to be unstoppable!

There is a heap of ‘numbers’ in the report; here are a few: • Auckland Council manages around 6,000km of storm water pipes, 20,000km of streams, 150,000 manholes and 370 ponds and wetlands.

• Watercare Services manage around 8,000km of wastewater pipes, 18 wastewater treatment plants and about 420,000 wastewater connections.

• The cost of providing new infrastructure to service Auckland’s greenfield areas (undeveloped land) alone is estimated to be $20 billion over the next 30 years

• Development is increasingly sprawling onto the coast. In 2014, 2900ha of marine space had been zoned or consented for mussel and oyster farms, with a further 390ha zoned for fish farms.

• The Gulf’s six marine reserves only protect around 0.3% of the Gulf, and only one new reserve has been created since the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act was enacted in 2000.

• Cable protection zones prevent fishing in around 4.9% of the Gulf, but there is little evidence of ecological recovery in the largest of those zones.

• Past estimates indicate that at least 11,000 yachts and launches; between 2,500 and 2,800 personal water craft; and, 75,000 small craft use the Gulf.

• In 2014, the Gulf contained 19 marinas, with around 49% of New Zealand’s 12,918 marina berths located in the Auckland region.

• In 2017, various permits were given for sand extraction from the Gulf eg 2,000,000m3 of sand, including shelly gravel and three for 76,000m3 per year in the Pakiri area near Little Barrier Island.

Dredging for shipping brings another set of mind bogging numbers of cubic metres extracted! This is just a very small window of what’s in this very comprehensive report.

My intention from the above numbers is to raise your awareness of what’s happening and hopefully encourage you to download the report so you can see the size of the challenges we and the marine environment face as the country continues to develop. It’s a very informative document.

Finally, a couple of quotes: John Tregidga, chair of the Hauraki Gulf Forum, says:

We’re not catching less fish, we’re not milking less cows and we’re certainly not building less homes. Pressure on the Gulf is increasing, and investment and infrastructure and new policy directions are not keeping pace.” People need to understand it is all interconnected.

Stephen Hawking, the renowned physicist who recently passed away, was regarded as possessing one of the world’s greatest minds. He said:

“We are in danger of destroying ourselves by our greed and stupidity. We cannot remain looking inwards at ourselves on a small and increasingly polluted and overcrowded planet”.

Dave Moran
Editor at Large