Friends of the Hauraki Gulf

The Hakaimango-Matiatia Marine Reserve Proposal - latest news
15 July 2021

Read the full proposal here.

“This one is for the fish.”

Support for the Hakaimango - Matiatai Marine Reserve proposal, which was formally sent to the Director-General of DOC, and copied to the two Ngāti Paoa Trust Boards on 23 April, is steadily growing.

Most recently we have had strong support from highly respected people in the Waiheke community.

The editor of Gulf News, Liz Waters, devoted an editorial to the proposal in the 1 July issue. She wrote: “…the Hakaimango to Matiatia Point no-take marine reserve proposed by the Friends of the Hauraki Gulf burst on a fairly dismal scene two months ago, a breath of fresh air in the wake of yet another devastating Hauraki Gulf Forum report on the State of the Gulf.

“The proposal conjures up a vision of saving and nurturing the area’s especially diverse array of high-quality marine habitats: a unique series of rocky reefs, deep inlets and soft sediment bays, still with its richly dominant kelp diversity, virtually free of kina, and with thriving invertebrate communities and bivavle beds.

“No-take marine reserves do not restrict access - snorkeling and diving and the yachts that uses the vital north-west facing Owhanake bay anchorage , for example - but commercial concessions to exploits fragile remaining habitats can be prohibited.

“This one is for the fish.

“And we have the will. The Waiheke local Board in 2014, under the chairmanship of Paul Walden, obtained a Colmar Brunton poll of island residents and landowners on the vexed issue of marine reserves. It found that 64 per cent of us on Waiheke - and 67 per cent if we are Māori - wanted no-take marine reserves to address the woeful undersea landscape of the Gulf.”

And Lady Jennie Fenwick, wife of the departed, legendary Waiheke-based environmentalist Sir Rob Fenwick, who lives adjacent to the Te Matuku Marine Reseve reinforced these sentiments in a letter to the editor:

Dear editor,

Re Liz Waters’ editorial and coverage of the SeaChange initiative in last week’s issue of Gulf News. I have to say if I was to second guess my late husband, Sir Rob Fenwick's view, I think like me he would share the view of many conservationists that Minister Parker’s announcement was somewhat disappointing. However he was more courageous than most and in fact he may have used stronger language to encourage the Government to take more urgent action. He often used to say that 'the science is done, we know what to do , all that is left is to do it !!'

The eleven proposed ‘High Protection' areas are a step in the right direction but they don't come into force until the end of 2024. This is a real concern. These are also ‘experimental’, moreover they are expressly designed to be open for some level of fishing - at what level evidently remains to be negotiated. I share the concerns of those who feel this will prove to be problematic but I will wait and watch with interest. I hope those policy makers involved also keep an open mind and if these 'high protection' areas fail to deliver the desired outcome a stronger plan of action is put in place.

Future restrictions on ‘most' bottom trawling and banning recreational scallop dredging are welcome however with extensions to only two no-take marine reserves, one outside the Gulf proper, and disappointingly not even one new marine reserve, ‘Revitalising the Gulf’ seems to be overselling the proposal.

Meanwhile though international and local scientific research reveals no-take marine reserves to be the most effective form of marine ecosystem protection, it seems none can be expected from officialdom any time soon.

Therefore the home-grown Hakaimango - Matiatia marine reserve off northwest Waiheke, proposed by the Friends of the Hauraki Gulf deserves our support. At 2500 ha it would be the biggest in the Gulf and bookend the existing Te Matuku Bay marine reserve (700 ha) now approaching its 20th birthday. Te Matuku Bay reserve is showing signs of abundance and a restored marine ecosystem and it is where I am lucky enough to call home. Scientific research tells us much, but living on the edge of a healthy marine ecosystem allows me to observe, in real time, that when mother nature is given a chance she knows exactly what to do. Let's give that chance to the Hakaimago - Matiatia Marine Reserve proposal.


Jennie Fenwick.

In the previous issue of Gulf News, Shirin Brown, chair of the Hauraki Islands branch of Forest & Bird, added her voice, saying the marine reserve proposal should go ahead, and be supported by everyone in our community.

Mike Lee, the chair of the Friends group, has met with the DOC marine protection team in Auckland, with Ngāti Paoa kaumatua Denny Thompson, and the DOC Pou Tairangahau Māori protocol adviser, Hauauru Rawiri to advise and facilitate further pre-notification engagement with manawhenua.

The photo at the top of this newsletter is of an adult hāpuku or hāpuka (Polyprion oxygeneios), the magnificent, once-dominant predator of the inner Hauraki Gulf reefs (now rare). Photo by Dr Roger Grace. This image (above) is what baby hāpuku look like. It’s taken at the NIWA breeding facility for the fish, at Bream Bay, Northland. Photo credit Irene Van de Ven.

Find out more - an invitation

The Friends of the Hauraki Gulf group would welcome any invitations to make an illustrated presentation to any interested community groups.

Mike Lee and Chris Curreen have talked to the DOC marine protection team lead Rebecca Bird, senior analyst Mandy Leathers, project manager Glen Carbines, and statutory manager John Galilee this week. On the same day Mike and Chris met with the Sandford Fisheries sustainability manager Peter Longhill, to brief Sandford on our proposal.

On 4 July, Alex Stone talked to a group at the Matariki exhibition, currently on at the Waiheke Community Art Gallery.

On Friday 16 July, directly after the Kai Conscious Cafe lunch) at the Sustainability Centre, Alex Stone and Sid Marsh spoke about the reserve to the 85 people there.

Upcoming presentations:

Wednesday 28 July - 11 am to U3A (the University of the 3rd Age), at the Surdale Club (the Surfdale Bowling Club).

Thursday 29 July - 4pm - Waiheke Adult Learning centre - a presentation to the Waiheke Marine Project committee and paid staff.

We also have been invited to speak to the Onetangi Residents Association - date to be announced.

Please visit our new website for detailed information on the ecological values and the background of this proposal.

Crayfish survey builds on previous Friends of the Hauraki Gulf work

An underwater survey to assess kōura/crayfish/rock lobster (Jasus edwardsii) population on Waiheke’s northern shore is underway. Lead by marine biologist Craig Thorburn, and with divers from Waiheke Dive & Snorkelling, and the University Underwater Club, the research will add to that already commissioned by the Friends Group in 2013, and the Local Board in 2016.

The new survey is re-assessing the 16 sites (and more) surveyed in 2013 by Dr Roger Grace and University Underwater Club Divers.

The findings also reinforced the findings of Dr Tim Haggitt, who dived the proposed Hakaimango - Matiatia marine reserve area in his research for the ecological survey, commissioned by the Waiheke local Board in 2016.

Unfortunately, it’s not good news: a headline in the Gulf News described the new results as ‘heartbreaking.’ These surveys all reported that kōura were locally, functionally extinct around Waiheke.

The new survey is finding a miniscule number of crayfish - way below, as Craig points out, a critical mass to provide viable recruitment and restoration of their population. For this reason, Craig and his team are seriously considering re-introducing kōura to the area, as they will be protected by the Ngāti Paoa rāhui for a time - and our new Hakaimango-Matiatia Marine Reserve in perpetuity. The ongoing research, using the same sites, will provide further valuable data enhancing the scientific baseline of the proposed marine reserve and the island’s northern coastline.

With thanks to Shaun Lee for this fine graphic (above). What we’d prefer to see (below). Photo by Dr Roger Grace.

Some thoughts on the ‘Revitalising the Gulf’ (SeaChange) Government Proposal

Committee members of the Friends Group have carefully read the whole document and note that:

- The entire plan is predicated around fisheries management and resource exploitation. The first chapter is all about fisheries management. Conservation through 'protected areas' comes fifth.

- Imagine if the 'big breakthrough' for a land-based national park was a plan to harvest, say, kererū! The Hauraki Gulf marine Park is supposed to be our 'national park of the sea.'

- There will be no new marine reserves.

- Instead they're proposing a new concept, called 'high protection areas.' These will not be managed by DOC, and will allow customary take, which will need to be negotiated. These are experimental, and there’s also no certainty for how long these new 'high protection areas' will be in place for.

- These 'high protection areas' will only come into force in three years time.

- The plan is disingenuous when it claims 6% of the Gulf is under marine protection. In truth only 0.003% is in marine reserves. The other 'marine protected areas' are those that include underwater cables zones (no anchoring, but still fishing allowed), shipping lanes (dredging allowed), and navy firing ranges (!) Remember the legendary Dr Bill Ballantine called for at least 10% of the Gulf to be in marine reserves. Today we still have less than 1%.

- The 'seafloor protection area' we thought would come into place in the Firth of Thames is not there.

- Despite Waiheke being at the epicentre of the Hauraki Gulf crisis (due to the high number of recreational fishing boats in our waters, the biggest community entirely surrounded by the HGMP and directly affected by this etc), there is no provision for additional marine protection around or near Waiheke - except for a 'high protection area' outside of Pakatoa Island.

How to summarise this initiative? One could say it's too little, too late. One could say it's a step in the right direction. But however one views it, the Revitalising the Gulf document not a bold move.

Outside of ’SeaChange’ the good news is that DOC is being supportive and actively working on our marine reserve proposal. It has a recently appointed project manager Glen Carbines and its marine protection team led by Rebecca Bird is on the case.

A reminder (above) that marine reserves are not only for the fish. This is the critically-endangered, endemic New Zealand storm petrel (Fregetta maoriana). This lovely little seabird, belived to be long extinct, was only re-discoveredin 2003.The storm petrel’s only breeding place in the world is in the Hauraki Gulf, within the tall forests of Hauturu Little Barrier Island.

Quick facts about the Hakaimango-Matiatia Marine Reserve proposal

  • The first new marine reserve proposal in the Hauraki Gulf for 20 years

  • A priority site recommended by marine scientist Dr Tim Haggitt in a Gaps Analysis and Feasibility Study commissioned by the Waiheke Local Board and published in 2017

  • Located between Matiatia Point (the north head of Matiatia Bay) and Hakaimango (the western head of Oneroa Bay); extends 3km north from Hakaimango;then 4.5km westward to a line 2.1km west of Matiatia, then southward 4.2km, then eastward to Matiatia Point comprising some 2,500 ha

  • Is a marine ecological transition zone between the outer and inner Hauraki Gulf

  • Remarkable existing environmental values, a highly diverse, indented foreshore, islets and Miocene fossil bearing cliffs, highly productive undersea rock terraces and kelp forests making it highly suitable for ecological restoration

  • Important feeding ground for all marine species - including seabirds and marine mammals

  • Ideal habitat for lost taonga species hāpuku, kōura (crayfish), kekeno (seals)

  • 2,500 ha, the largest marine reserve in the Hauraki Gulf

  • Readily accessible for those who wish to study or who just quietly appreciate the marine environment and the natural world,

We need your help!

Please let us know by email if you know of any people who would like to be added to this emailing list.

We will gratefully receive and acknowledge donations to our cause. All the work has been done, and now we need a little more to get our proposal over the line.

We acknowledge a generous donation from Waiheke locals who want to be anonymous, of $2,000. A heartfelt “Thank you!”

Our bank account details are:

Friends of the Hauraki Gulf
Kiwibank, Oneroa, Waiheke Island

Letters in support of the marine reserve proposal to the media, especially Waiheke’s Gulf News would be greatly appreciated too! Please send to

About Us

Friends of the Hauraki Gulf is a Waiheke Island-based conservation research group with members on Great Barrier/Aotea, Rakino and Auckland working to conserve marine life and restore marine ecosystems in the Hauraki Gulf.

All our work is based on best-practice science, and always has the protection of nature - our sustaining environment - foremost.

Friends of the Hauraki Gulf is a registered incorporated society. This picture (below) taken at Goat Island Marine Reserve, is what we’re working towards.

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