Manukau Courier

Is park move simply about control?

- John Watson

OPINION: The Auckland Council’s Regional Parks Management Plan is currently out for public consultati­on, which closes on Friday, next week.

Hidden away in the 460 pages of this weighty document is a proposal to ‘‘ ... Investigat­e formally including regional parks that contribute to the coastal area of the Gulf into the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park’’. This amounts to 21 of Auckland’s 28 regional parks and includes household names for Aucklander­s, such as Tawharanui, Mahurangi, Wenderholm, Shakespear and Long Bay.

On the face of it, this might seem an innocuous enough suggestion for anyone able to locate it (book 1, section 7, page 59, point 45) but what the public is not told is that at the same time this is happening, the Hauraki Gulf Forum is pushing for sweeping changes to its compositio­n and powerswith­in this marine park.

The forum is made up of 21 members: tangata whenua (6), Auckland Council (7) Waikato councils (5) and government representa­tives (3). It meets quarterly to discuss and share informatio­n and issues pertaining to the Hauraki Gulf.

However, not contentwit­h its mandate under the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act, some within the forum are pushing for a new Hauraki Gulf ‘‘authority’’ with cogovernan­ce leadership and equal membership between mana whenua and others, along with a range of new functions and powers.

Without any consultati­on, the forum will vote at the end of this month to take these proposals to Government ministers. That’s if they haven’t been discussed already – because ambitions to exercise control over the Hauraki Gulf, well outside anything that could be achieved by the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process, are not exactly new. The view might well be that the political stars are in alignment for this audacious proposal that has the potential to significan­tly impact both Gulf and regional parks.

While the council would retain ownership and funding responsibi­lity for the parks, a measure of influence would pass to the largely unelected authority, the exact consequenc­es of which remain entirely unclear. The ‘‘transferra­l’’ has been advanced under the vague guise of somehow restoring the health of the Gulf, but there is absolutely no compelling rationale articulate­d as to how since land use is well managed and has little impact on the Gulf.

In my view, this move has more to do with power and control than it does with restoring the health of the Gulf or improving the management of Auckland’s regional park network. While it’s one thing to put forward proposals to address

the parlous state of the Hauraki Gulf (which certainly needs addressing), it is quite something else to proceed in the clandestin­e manner that has characteri­sed these two parallel processes.

The Hauraki Gulf and the regional park network are synonymous with what defines Auckland and its people, the jewels in the crown of our region. Both are too important to be compromise­d by proposals that lack transparen­cy and which are being advanced with little public knowledge or debate.

John Watson is an Auckland Council member for the Albany ward.

 ?? DAVID WHITE/STUFF ?? Gannets and a Brydes Whale feast on anchovies in the Hauraki Gulf. Hauraki Gulf Forum is pushing for sweeping changes to its compositio­n and powers.
DAVID WHITE/STUFF Gannets and a Brydes Whale feast on anchovies in the Hauraki Gulf. Hauraki Gulf Forum is pushing for sweeping changes to its compositio­n and powers.
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