Hauraki Gulf value not sufficiently recognised

Published: Tue 9 Aug 2011 03:46 PM
Embargoed until 3.30 pm, Tuesday 9 August
Hauraki Gulf value not sufficiently recognised
Auckland and Waikato political leaders have called for better accounting of the services provided by the environment, following the release of a state of the Hauraki Gulf report today.
Hauraki District Mayor John Tregidga, who chairs the Hauraki Gulf Forum, said international studies show the benefit of maintaining healthy environments outweighs short term economic use by five to one.
“Yet, our latest state of the environment report shows most environmental indicators on either negative trends or remaining at levels which are indicative of poor environmental conditions.”
Auckland Councillor Chris Fletcher, the Deputy Chair of the Hauraki Gulf Forum, said “The economic value from the Leigh marine reserve, the thousands of boaties and fishers out on the Gulf each weekend, and the community-led restoration of islands like Tiritri Matangi and Motutapu, show there are great returns from enhancement, an abundance of marine life and uncluttered natural space.”
The report notes that:
• Current fisheries management rules keep stocks of fish such as snapper and crayfish well below natural levels. Having about three quarters of potential fish numbers missing from the system, particularly large individuals, has altered other plant and animal life around the Gulf. Fishing methods, particularly bottom trawling used in 30-40 percent of commercial catch, are likely to cause substantial reductions in species and habitat diversity.
• Toxic metals and organic contaminants are causing localised effects in Auckland estuaries and a number of metal contaminants also exceed sediment guidelines in the southern Firth of Thames.
• The Waihou and Piako rivers dominate nutrient loads to the Gulf with 70 percent originating from diffuse agricultural sources. The 1 percent per annum increase in nitrogen in rivers is consistent with increasing dairy cow numbers and uses of fertiliser and supplementary feeds.
• Muddy sediment rates are above natural levels and related changes in marine communities have been detected in several north Auckland estuaries.
• Mangrove expansion and other habitat changes are implicated in the decline of about half of the most common wading birds of the southern Firth of Thames.
• Endangered Bryde’s whales may be in decline due to vessel strike and entanglement in mussel farm spat lines.
• A large amount of plastic litter continues to enter the coastal environment, with long term persistence in the environment and effects on wildlife and aesthetics.
The report also notes encouraging signs; improving water clarity from better regulation and management of sediment run-off, declining trends in nutrients in Auckland Rivers and a rebuild of kahawai stocks.
It identifies the need for clear water quality targets, expanded green and blue protected areas, an eco-system research focus, enhanced fisheries, and partnerships with tangata whenua.
Auckland Mayor Len Brown and Waikato regional Council Chairman Peter Buckley backed calls for greater investment in protection and enhancement of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.

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