The Motiti Protection Area is now in place, meaning people can no longer take any kind of marine life from the three offshore reef areas surrounding Motiti Island.
Regional Council was directed to introduce the rules by the Environment Court, off the back of a complex court case spanning six years. The Environment Court identified the biodiversity and cultural values of these reefs as being particularly special and needing protection. This marine protection area is the only one of its kind in Bay of Plenty and the decision a first for New Zealand.
General Manager of Regulatory Services, Sarah Omundsen, acknowledges it has been an unusual process and one that didn’t provide an opportunity for feedback or input from tangata whenua and the public.
“Regardless of how we got here, we now have an opportunity to hit pause and take some time to understand these important places,” she says.
“Overall, relatively little is known about New Zealand’s marine species. What we do know is that our oceans are under pressure and that there has been a decline in biodiversity and habitat because of human activity,” she says.
“Our team are well equipped to get the job done and are ready to go. We’ll be out on the water with a focus on making sure people understand the rules and why they are in place,” she says.
Since announcing the start date the Regional Council has been working with dive clubs to find a way to safely allow anchoring in the area.
“Anchoring risks damaging the vulnerable plants and animals the rules have been introduced to protect. Together we’ve come up with some guidelines on how people can safely anchor at the reefs without causing damage. These are available on our website and we ask anyone wanting to visit the area to please check them out,” she says.
“We know many are concerned about the fishing pressure this will put on Motiti Island, and we’ll be working with the Te Patuwai Tibal Committee and Motiti landowners to monitor that,” she says.
Eunice Evans of the Te Patuwai Tribal Committee says Te Patuwai, tangata whenua and tangata moana are working with Regional Council kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face) to ensure that the hapū are involved with monitoring and decision processes related to Motiti Island and its surrounding waters.
"Te Patuwai hold the Kaitiakitanga of Motiti and acknowledges Te whenua Te Tauwhao and Motiti Landowners," she says.
For more information on the Motiti Protection Area please visit www.boprc.govt.nz/mpa
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Map of the three areas making up the Motiti Protection Area (does not include Motiti Island).