Island could be Unesco reserve
A proposal for Waiheke to become a special reserve is gathering pace with support from residents, backing from politicians, and new plans to hold workshops.
About 50 people were at a public meeting in Ostend at the weekend for an update from resident Colin Beardon about his proposal for the island to become a Unesco biosphere reserve.
He believes it would enable Waiheke to develop sustainable practices more effectively and safeguard its essential character for future generations.
The idea was first mooted by Mr Beardon to the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance two years ago during its hearing on the island.
He and a small group of volunteers have been working ever since to develop the concept and have produced a booklet called Waiheke Forever.
It has information about the reserves and why the island should become one.
Mr Beardon believes the main advantages would be protection for endangered species as well as more control over impacts from built developments, the district plan, transport, and waste services for example.
He says it could also help ensure jobs, affordable housing, and an environment based on peace and equality for future generations.
There are currently 553 biosphere reserves in 107 countries but New Zealand has none so far.
The government would have to nominate the island to become a reserve in order for Unesco to consider the application.
Mr Beardon has canvassed politicians from all three main parties and got their backing, including support from Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye.
People at the meeting listened as he read out a statement from Ms Kaye.
"Recently I met with Colin regarding the Unesco biosphere concept. I will continue to work with him to investigate any possible government support for it and this is what I will be doing over the coming months.
"This needs to involve getting further into the detail of how it could work. If the Unesco biosphere is not possible I intend to work with Colin to deliver sustainable development initiatives on the island which is a major thrust of the biosphere concept."
Mr Beardon says he has received at least 400 emails from islanders also pledging support for the idea, with a quarter written at some length.
He and people at the meeting want to put that support to the test by making the proposal an election issue at the local board elections this October.
They believe if candidates in favour of the biosphere are elected it will send a signal to the government that islanders are solidly behind the concept – as well as guiding board members' decision-making over related issues.
Resident Basil Holmes was one of many who spoke at the meeting about why the biosphere would be a good idea for the island.
He says the winds of change are starting to blow throughout the country, citing the East coast's recent protests against oil exploration as an example.
Mr Holmes says the biosphere is a vision for islanders to effect their own change.
"What's been lacking in this country is any vision at all. Young people are thinking about not having any children – how shocking.
"The leadership will come from the people here at this meeting."
Meanwhile, a new working party has been formed to organise workshops that will consider various options for a future project that will support Unesco's requirement for biosphere reserves to demonstrate sustainable practices.
For more information, see website www.WaihekeBR.info, email WaihekeBR@ gmail.com or call 372-5801.