Reserve battle heats up

GEORGE GARDNER
Last updated 05:00 12/02/2014
Andrew Barclay
George Gardner
PROCESS CONCERNS: Keep our Beaches representative Andrew Barclay is asking the Waiheke Local Board to consult with the community over socially acceptable locations for a marine reserve.

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Opponents of a marine reserve proposed for the northern residential side of the island are warning the issue could end up in court.

They are calling for action to avert the showdown and are urging the Waiheke Local Board to consult residents.

Andrew Barclay, Deb Cox and Miriam Whelan from Keep Our Beaches represent more than 2500 people who have signed their petition.

They say 82 per cent of them have a Waiheke address and they have written backing from Piritahi Marae and the Waiheke Island Fishing and Recreational Group.

The Keep our Beaches representatives say they are not against marine reserves.

They say the Friends of the Gulf group, which is continuing its scientific research for a marina on the north side of the island, should have consulted the community first over socially acceptable locations.

Now Keep our Beaches is calling for the local board to consult the community on which locations - including other gulf islands in the board's jurisdiction - should be investigated further for potential marine reserves.

It says the results could be fed back into the Hauraki Gulf islands spatial planning process known as Sea Change, which has been set up to find an integrated sustainable solution for the entire gulf.

Ms Whelan says: "We want to work with this board to integrate into this process and move forward. Ninety-nine per cent of our supporters want a marine reserve. We are about getting a marine environment win and protecting the lifestyle we love on this island."

But local board chairman Paul Walden says he is sceptical of the marine spatial planning process to deliver any real community engagement.

"There was an undertaking communities would be part of it. There is only one person on it representing all the communities and there is also a very limited budget. The challenge for the board is to build consensus and move this forward. The marine spatial plan isn't going to deliver it to us."

His view is backed by councillor for Waitemata and Gulf Mike Lee, who is on the Sea Change steering group.

"Given my first hand experience I have very little confidence in the marine spatial plan process, the way it has been formulated and taken over by vested interests.

"Forget about shoving it into the marine spatial plan until there is a consensus on Waiheke.

"There is a marine reserve on the southern side and the world hasn't ended. I think we need to talk about it."

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Ms Whelan says she shares Mr Walden's concerns about the Sea Change stakeholder group.

"But the local board has a special place to be the conduit into that and it's about maximising how effective it can be."

Mr Barclay says if the community isn't consulted, Keep our Beaches will oppose any application lodged for a north side marine reserve in a residential area all the way through to the Marine Reserves Act.

"We have given the terms under which we would take our opposition away. We simply head to the courts or we sit down and talk."

- Waiheke Marketplace

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