Episode six: Hauraki Marine Park
Gus explores New Zealand’s unofficial National Park of the sea - the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. Covering 1.2 million hectares of open ocean, hundreds of kilometres of coastline and more than 50 islands, the Park was preserved by its own Act of Parliament more than a decade ago.
About 1.5 million people live in Auckland city, on the doorstep of the Park, and years of shipping, fishing, tourism and recreation have seen it over-fished and polluted. Today, passionate people are fighting to restore the gulf to its former glory.
Filled with a range of protection types from zero fishing reserves to managed zones for recreational fishing, Hauraki is an attempt to create a sustainable park that can serve its community and retain its unique qualities.
Pockets are starting to teem with underwater life and some of the islands are beginning to flourish with native species. But the future of this model of park is still very much unknown. Only the window of time will reveal if it’s to be a success - or not.
Gus travels to the Mokohino Islands Group, remote, seldom visited and the most solitary and desolate islands in the gulf. That isolation drove a lighthouse keeper to insanity in the 1880s, but has also been a saving grace for the marine life in the area. Here Gus meets up with a marine scientist who is fighting to restore the marine environment in the Park. Together they explore the areas of the Park where fishing is not allowed, including the spectacular Goat Island, New Zealand’s first marine reserve. This stunning ecosystem is laden with fish-life including the Southern Right Whale.
Travelling onwards, Gus visits another of the marine reserves in the Park, Tawharanui. A popular destination on summer weekends, the reserve has been protected for more than 30 years.
Gus also stops by Motorua Island, to check on the fate of New Zealand’s national icon, the North Island brown kiwi. Kiwis born on the predator-free island are helping to rebuild the native population on the mainland. Endangered species are also the focus of conservation efforts on Little Barrier Island, to the north of the Park, while on its big sister, Great Barrier Island, residents fight to protect its “wild frontier” feeling.
Will education be one of the keys to restoring the Gulf – getting the next generation to face the facts of how vulnerable these waters and islands really are? It is early days, and the Marine Park seems like a good start in trying to redress our bias towards looking after the land better than we do the sea.