Marine Protection Forum Needs More Time for Public Consultation and Education

Marine Protection Forum Needs More Time for Public Consultation and Education

The South-East Marine Protection Planning Forum/Roopu Manaaki ki te Toka has requested more time for their planning process so that members of the forum can continue engaging with their people and stakeholder groups. Consultation was to have been completed by October this year. Since that request was made the forum also discovered that misleading information regarding the process has been circulated within the region. The forum believes this highlights the need to ensure that the planning process includes sufficient time for effective and well informed engagement with stakeholders.

The forum, created in July 2014 with support from the Department of Conservation and the Ministry for Primary Industries, has been asked to recommend to the government what sites, from Timaru down to Waipapa Point in Southland, are deserving of marine protection and what type of marine protection the sites need.

At this point no areas have been confirmed for marine protection or even for the formal submission process, but up to 46 options have been identified for further discussion based on their biodiversity values.

Forum chair Maree Baker-Galloway says that the forum has become aware that a set of maps, outlining some of the areas of interest which have been discussed by the Forum, have been circulated amongst the public without accompanying information required to understand their significance.

“We were made aware this week that there is a set of maps on the wall at the Owaka pub, and that a similar set had been delivered to several cribs.  The explanation of the maps at the pub was completely misleading and gives the impression that all the areas marked might become protected areas.  This is incorrect.  What they actually are is a collection of ideas and options for debate and significant culling and refining, in fact they are earlier working drafts that have already been further refined with areas eliminated and changed.”

“Understandably this incorrect information has caused much consternation and some anger. We don’t know how widely the maps have been distributed. To correct public understanding of the maps and the areas that are being scrutinised, the Forum has now posted them on their website for public viewing  Information on the Vision, Objectives and Guiding Principles of the Forum, as well as the types of protection being looked at, can also be found here.”

The forum has not made any decisions about the number of sites. But, the network of marine protected areas is expected to be representative of the region’s biodiversity. It is to achieve this by including examples of typical habitats. Consideration will also be given to protecting rare or outstanding habitats.

The forum will be looking for options that minimise adverse effects on Treaty settlements and existing users, and the 46 areas are a starting point for discussions about such options. The minimum requirement is for at least one area to be designated as a marine reserve, and for at least one other area to be included that may have a lesser level of protection.

Maree Baker-Galloway says that the process of refinement, before the public is formally consulted through the submission process, is exactly what the Forum is in the process of doing now.  The working draft maps were used by Forum members to consult with their networks and bring feedback and more information back to the Forum.

“Depending on the information we get out of the ongoing consultation and submission process, the final set of recommended areas could look completely different to these working drafts.  It really is an interactive process that is dependent on the information we have in front of us”.

“There is consultation in the form of formal submissions, and there is consultation in the form of Forum members talking to their own people or interest groups.  We want to do as much of the latter as we can to get feedback on ideas before going to the formal submission stage. We expect to have a ministerial answer to our request for an extension in the New Year.”