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Published: 2011-08-11 00:00:00

Waikato’s popular marine areas will be protected and enhanced for the future by a new plan about to get underway, the Waikato Regional Council heard yesterday.

The Policy and Strategy Committee yesterday directed council staff to begin preparation of a Regional Waikato Marine Strategy and scope collaborative options for developing a marine spatial plan for the Hauraki Gulf.

Committee chairperson Paula Southgate said the Waikato’s marine areas were among the region’s most heavily used natural resources.

“They have significant regional importance in terms of amenity and economic potential and we want to ensure we retain and enhance these areas for the future,” Cr Southgate said.

“There are lots of competing interests for our marine areas, from boaties to commercial and recreational fishers, divers to swimmers, and seafood gathering. They are also a rich source of seafood for everyone, including tangata whenua.

“The work that’s going to be undertaken integrates with existing work carried out by the council, such as Shore Futures and Coromandel Blueprint.

“Development of a regional marine strategy will also inform the council’s Long Term Plan works programme, prioritise existing projects and identify knowledge gaps,” she said.

The strategy will show how the council intends achieving integrated management of the marine and coastal areas, as well as optimising opportunities for regional, economic and cultural wellbeing. It would also help to direct appropriate infrastructure needs and growth opportunities.

The committee heard that preliminary work on the strategy had identified a spatial plan as an important tool for managing the marine area. A spatial plan involves mapping the existing environmental resources of the coast, and the social, cultural and economic uses these provide to the community. Drawn together with other information, it helps to better understand and manage the demands on our marine areas.

Meanwhile, Waikato Regional Council and Auckland Council staff are already working together to investigate possible options for the development of a spatial plan for the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. The councils will work together with territorial authorities, tangata whenua, the Hauraki Gulf Forum and other key stakeholders associated with the sustainable management of the Hauraki Gulf.

Early work on the Gulf’s spatial plan includes such matters as governance, timing, method and process. Results of the assessment will be reported to both councils, as well as the Hauraki Gulf Forum.

The intention is to complete investigations for the requirements of a Hauraki Gulf spatial plan because of the pressures on it. The region’s west coast will be addressed at a later stage.

The regional council’s coasts, land and wetlands programme manager Peter Singleton told the committee: “Our planning for all of Waikato’s marine areas will incorporate the aspirations of stakeholders, and ecological considerations as well.

“It’s about ensuring activities are compatible and complementary to maintain a healthy, functioning and productive resource,” Dr Singleton said.

He said Hauraki Gulf is heavily used by people from around the Waikato and Auckland. “Imagine if the population grows the pressure that will put on the marine resources. More pressure means more conflict for the resources, so we need to plan now to reduce the potential for conflict, provide future opportunities and look after what people value about the Gulf.”