top of page

Letters to the Editor

Marine Reserves

Alan Proctor got it right last week.

Having been involved in the Seachange Stakeholder Working Group where we covered Marine Reserves or HPA’s, my take-out was that they have value for research, education and tourism. For HPA’s to be effective in terms of overall biodiversity, they only have an effect when at least 30% of ocean space is covered. Even then they exhibit the shortcomings that Alan describes. It would be highly unrealistic to try and cover one third of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park with HPA’s, especially considering all the reefs and island fringes would be covered, wiping out recreational fishing as well as high value low-impact commercial long lining.

The real problem is our Fisheries Management Policy, the Quota Management System, that has failed to restrict take sufficiently in the past. Regional Council candidate Warren Maher has it right when he says that MPI (Ministry of Primary Industry) needs to take responsibility for the biodiversity problems by performing far more stock assessments than they undertake and set catch allowances accordingly. In addition, banning mobile bottom contact fishing methods, such as dredging and Danish seining, would do more to assist recovery than HPA’s. Marine reserves are an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff and not the answer to a failed Quota Management System.

Dirk Sieling


Letter to the Editor

The Editor

Alan Proctor’s “letter to the editor” calls for a reply. He states “many of the public with the best intentions but little knowledge get caught up in this wave for what seems like a good idea”. This is to do with marine reserves.

I have been involved with fishing and marine environment for 50 years. I was a commercial cray fisherman and long liner for a couple of decades. I was a charter boat skipper for 20 years, taking fishing and diving parties to all parts of the marine area between Mayor Island and Great barrier island. I have been a scuba diver for over 40 years. Since retirement I have continued recreational fishing for personal enjoyment and seafood which I love. I think that cover the “little knowledge” bit.

Alan mentions the physical destruction of the marine habitat by trawling and dredging, but he fails to mention probably the most destructive activities of marine reefs – the home of most fish life. Consider the rapidly rising number of large craft now calling Whitianga marine and the canal development “home”. These ships use heavy ground tackle with much chai, now consider that chain stretched out through a kelp forest or sponge community. If there is any sort of lift or windage, that chain will stretch straight and go slack. The boat will swing and veer causing the chain to sweep through the sea bed, shearing off anything in its travel. I have seen this happening with our won anchor chain whilst diving. Trailer boat anchors are just as destructive and trailer boats blow around a lot more than the bigger boats.

Forty years ago we used to frequent a beautiful dive location to impress our diving clientele. It was known as ‘The garden of Eden’. Fantastic, huge fan sponges of amazing colours and more species of fish life than anywhere else we knew. We were careful to anchor away from the reef. I returned for a nostalgic dive 15 years ago, but was aghast at the stat of that beautiful reef. Bare rock and no fish. This reef is too deep to have been a ‘kina barren’. I know it became an X spot on many fisher’s charts.

Dredging and trawling operations steer will clear of reefs for obvious reasons.

On the Great Barrier Reef of Australia and many other top dive locations around the world, boats are not allowed to anchor. There are mooring buoys just off the reefs they must use.

As the fishing becomes harder because of less fish, fishing boats try different locations much more often.

Alan’s biogenic habitat will not be one for long if these might be a legal fish or two there. A Marine Protection Area (MPA) does give juvenile fish a chance of a home with good cover and enough biodiversity for food and healthy growth.

Another of Alan’s quotes “The MPA will almost certainly displace the fishing effort from that particular area into the surrounding areas, putting other places under even more pressure (same amount of fishing but less area available)”

Hey, if there is a well-managed MPA which is large enough, those other areas will have many more fish spreading into them. The Hahei Marine Reserve is minimal in size. If 10% of New Zealand’s marine area was marine protected, would the other 90% not be enough for Alan. This is what the whole tone of his letter implies.

Roger Elliot Whitianga

Letters to the editor,

In response to Alan Proctor’s letter “Opposition to Marine Reserves” (Informer issue 1021), I would like to suggest some possible solutions to the problem of chronic degradation of the Hauraki Gulf as outlined in the Hauraki Forum Report. Alan states that implementation of MPA’s implies that a certain area needs protection, presumably from humans. Is this the only reason that reserves at Hahei, Leigh, the Poor Knights, and the other 41 locations in NZ were created - to protect them from humans? I think not. According to DOC, marine reserves (MPAs) were created as a conservation tool rather than a fisheries management tool. “The main aim is to create an area free from alterations to marine habitats and life, providing a useful comparison for scientists to study.” It was important to enable these comparisons for meaningful scientific research into degradation of our marine environment to take place. Recently, reserves are also beginning to be used as a fisheries management tool worldwide where stocks are being seriously depleted. This would be in line with Alan’s call for more research, although much research has already been done and also calls for better fisheries management (which started this year with the new limit bag rules) and the creation of more MPAs.

Few would argue the economic, environmental and social benefits of the MPAs including the spillover of spat and fish into adjacent fishing areas. These are outlined in the DOC website ( if you want to delve deeper. As mentioned in previous correspondence, I would suggest another be created in our own backyard with straight lines running from Round Island to Double Bay to Sandy Bay and back to Round Island. This would give local tour operators and the general public an area protected from northerly quarter winds which make access to Hahei difficult while only restricting the recreational fishing area by a small amount. This would surely have a far greater economic benefit to the area than the proposed privately owned mussel spat farm with its many associated environmental risks. At present, recreational fishers, of which I am one, have access locally to thousands of square kilometres of ocean outside of the Hahei marine reserve. Would creation of a few more MPAs of 20 square kilometres or less each, really put undue pressure on other areas? I doubt it.

Another possible solution to Alan’s concerns might be to place further restrictions on catch limits and methods. When I first came to Whitianga in the 1980s, fish of many species were in far greater abundance. Since then recreational boats have become bigger, faster, fitted with many more hi tech devices to find the fish, way more gear to catch them and there are so many vessels! The catch limit at present is a total of 20 fish per fisher with further restrictions on several species like snapper, kingfish and hapuka. When considering the increasing number of fishers and the resulting annual increase in total take, perhaps we could decrease the limit every year so that total catch remains the same. And lastly, I would agree with Alan’s suggestion of a ban on dredging and trawling, including trawling for surface fish such as kahawai.

As far as marine degradation caused by sediment and toxins running off the land is concerned, in areas like the Firth of Thames, perhaps we need to establish a lot more of, what I would call, RPAs (rural protected areas), where human activity is banned especially near rivers, lakes and streams. But that’s another issue.

Hopefully some of these suggestions might engender some useful discussion and debate.

Ross Liggins

Logging the Manaia Kauri

One ponders why the people of the Whitianga area and beyond are not clamouring to selectively log the Manaia kauri or other areas of the Coromandel Range. Certainly there would be benefits.

But no, the majority understand the intrinsic value of protected areas and hopefully a warranted outcry against such a proposition would be made. Why? It is because we can see the forested hills; we may have walked in them and we appreciate the value of such.

The opaque interface of the ocean prevents many from peering below. If one did in a protected area near the shore, they would observe a far higher biodiversity with largely intact ecosystems, than the bare rock and urchin substrate of an unprotected marine area. This is common knowledge.

Psychologists have clearly shown that people’s attitudes and feelings about losses and gains are not symmetric. “We feel more pain when we lose $10,000 than we feel pleasure when we get $10,000.” (Daniel Kahneman 2011) Many amongst the fishing fraternity repeatedly display this behaviour, with any suggestion that marine areas, in which they are able to extract edible and sport fish, may be withdrawn from them.

In 1963 J.K. Galbraith remarked, “This is one of man’s oldest, best financed, most applauded and on the whole, least successful exercises in moral philosophy. That is, the search for a truly superior moral justification for selfishness.”

If Mr. Proctor (Letters to the Editor 27 September 2022) is genuinely concerned that, in increasing marine protected areas, “..will deeply affect the ability of members of our community to catch fish to feed their families,” I contend that selling their boat would surely fund many fillets and feed their needy families for years.

Sally Armstrong Lees Road, Hahei.

Local Body Election View point

I was interested to see the letter from a Wharekaho resident in last week’s Mercury Bay Informer reviewing the qualities of local body election candidates and singling out the writer’s preferences. I was personally amazed to see the writer failed to mention our very own local Mayoral candidate, Len Salt, who is based in Mercury Bay and who has spent the last three years working pretty hard to improve the services and infrastructure in the Mercury Bay area. We have a fully funded alternative water investigation underway which has only happened because of the work that Len Salt and his Residents and Ratepayers team have been doing. That water supply will directly benefit the people of Wharekaho as well as Whitianga. Len Salt has been the driving force behind the team, building the new resource recovery centre at the transfer station. Once opened, this will benefit all of the people of Mercury Bay by cutting waste to landfill and reducing costs to ratepayers, providing jobs for local people and putting profits back into the community. These projects have been driven by community groups led by Mayoral candidate, Len Salt. Interesting the Wharekaho resident didn’t find any of this worth mentioning, but it was just one person’s opinion. Let’s get out and vote Coromandel!

Ngā mihi

Sharyn Morcom Whitianga 3591

Plant and pollute, or right tree in the right place for the right purpose?

We acknowledge with gratitude the latest comments from the Climate Change Commission; that the ETS allows companies to "plant and pollute" and needs reform. These comments are consistent with 50 Shades of Green’s long running assertions that indeed, the ETS needs a good overhaul. We continue to ask the Government, “Please pause before the Sheep and Beef sector is challenged out of existence.” What has happened under current policy settings? Instead of driving a change in behaviour at source, the opposite has resulted in our valuable breeding country, the top of the supply chain, used as a proxy. We are relying too heavily on planting trees to absorb polluters' carbon dioxide emissions.

While the government takes its time reviewing the ETS, our issue is, they have happily ignored our valid and vindicated concerns. They have uncritically relied too heavily on what we can only assume is official advice and have not acknowledged the devastating effects on New Zealand hill country constantly put to them. Recent additional sales confirmed, and there are more in the pipeline, that valuable stations have been lost from the sector that have produced $10b in receipts for the country. They are gone for good, sweeping rural communities away in their path. It's worth noting, we’re out of step with other countries who are skeptical about the use of offsets at all. We allow 100%. We need limits to offsets, and we need them now.

We urge the Government to do the right thing for New Zealand; work with more farmers to integrate planting on farms so we end up with the right tree in the right place for the right purpose.

Gwyn Jones

New Zealand's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is part of our response to climate

change. The ETS puts a price on greenhouse gases to encourage environmentally

sustainable behaviour. The carbon price is now high enough to

change land-use sufficiently to blow away sheep and beef, but too low to significantly

influence emission behavior's elsewhere. See more at


Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page