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An Oceans Policy For New Zealand

Hon Pete Hodgson
Speech Notes
10.30am Wednesday 6 February 2002

An Oceans Policy For New Zealand – The Next Steps

[Address to the 2002 Ngai Tahu Te Waipounamu Treaty Festival, Otakou Marae, Otakou, Otago Peninsula]

Haruru te moana, ngatoro te moana
Tenei nga ngaru ka whakapiki
Tenei nga ngaru ka whakaheke
Ko Tangaroa, Tangaroa ka hokai
Kie hura i te wiwii, hura i te wawaa
Taku waka, taku waka, hoe hoea, hoe hoea …

[Listen to the thundering oceans, the furious oceans,
These are the waves that rise high,
These are the waves that pound the shores,
‘Tis Tangaroa, behold Tangaroa as he speeds over the oceans,
Let the calm be widespread, let it be soon,
My waka, put forth my waka; paddle, paddle swiftly …]

My topic today concerns the relationship between New Zealanders, both Maori and Pakeha, and the sea. It concerns fishing, both customary and otherwise, but it is much more than fishing. It is the development of an Oceans Policy for New Zealand.

We are an island nation. The health of our oceans, our land and our people are inextricably linked. The decision to develop an Oceans Policy begins simply with a recognition of the value of our oceans, a recognition of the growing pressures on the marine environment, and a determination to address problems before they become crises.

This is a policy about new opportunities – how we make room for them, and how we ensure they are sustainable. Our Exclusive Economic Zone is one of the largest in the world. It is too easy to assume our oceans will always be big enough for us, big enough to survive anything we throw at them or pull out of them.

Ecological strains are beginning to show in our oceans. Conflicts in their use are erupting more and more frequently. If there is one simple reason why an Oceans Policy is a good idea, it is that those strains and conflicts will increase. That’s a certainty.

It’s a certainty because our growing population will always need and want wide range of things from our oceans, from the commercial to the spiritual. More and more often we will have to decide what is most important to us, when, and why.

We have plenty of laws dealing with the marine environment. Quite often they work. We have more policy under way – on aquaculture, on recreational fishing, on marine reserves.

But we do not have clear overarching goals to guide us when such different activities and interests come into conflict. That is the gap the Oceans Policy will fill.

This is a strategic process. The conflicts arising between different interests in the marine environment are not yet crises. They are more at the level of skirmishes.

Governments often don’t react to problems until they become urgent. This policy is about thinking ahead, about giving ourselves the tools to manage conflicts before they get out of hand.

So what sort of problem am I talking about?

Think about, for example, the clashes that can happen – and are likely to happen more and more often – between recreational and commercial uses of the sea. A company wanting to create a marine farm, lay an undersea cable or run a tourist operation could follow all the rules for that activity, yet still run into trouble with recreational users of the area. Those recreational users could follow all due processes for participating in the decision-making, yet still be deeply dissatisfied.

The same problems can arise between Maori and Pakeha – over whether there should be a taiapure or a marine reserve in a particular area, for example. Or between coastal residents and the developers of marine facilities such as ports and marinas. Or between boaties and commercial fishermen or transport operators.

Some challenges will arise from new technologies. Deep sea marine farming and mining are recent additions to the range of possible human activities in the sea. There will be more, and our approach to managing the marine environment must be flexible enough to absorb them.

What’s missing is a framework that helps us mediate between such different interests – that grounds decisions in a democratically agreed set of values and priorities.

We’ve taken the first step towards defining that framework with the consultation process carried out last year.

We did something uncommon in modern politics but familiar to Maori: we began by seeking clarity about our values and aspirations in respect of our oceans.

The Ministerial Advisory Committee on Oceans Policy, led by Dame Cath Tizard, spent three months talking with New Zealanders all around the country, at public meetings and hui. They asked people about their vision for New Zealand’s oceans — and about the values and principles they think should guide decisions about the marine environment.

About 2000 people attended the public meetings and more than 1000 made written submissions. The committee’s report to the government in October gives us a very clear insight into what New Zealanders think and feel about the sea and the coast, and it will guide the next stage of policy development.

Based on the results of the consultation process, ministers have agreed on a vision statement for the Oceans Policy. It says we want healthy oceans. We want New Zealanders to understand marine life and marine processes and take responsibility for wisely managing the health of the ocean and its contribution to the present and future social, cultural, environmental and economic wellbeing of New Zealand.

Now we have to design the policies and processes necessary to achieve that.

I don’t know where this will take us. I don’t know whether it will mean new legislation, a new government agency or service, or none of these things. This process does not have a pre-determined outcome.

Some people will be uncomfortable with that. Others can’t believe there isn’t a cunning secret plan hidden in my desk. But I genuinely have an open mind on what the result will be. And I’m comfortable with not having all the answers already.

That said, there are a few ideas that are non-negotiable. First is sustainability: if it isn’t sustainable, it isn’t a solution. Second is the role and importance of Article Two of the Treaty. It is that which will make New Zealand’s Oceans Policy different from any other on the planet. Third is the importance of access. All New Zealanders take it as a given that they can drop into, or onto, or under the sea, pretty much when they want to.

Cath Tizard’s group listed some big challenges for an Oceans Policy. From them we’ve identified seven key high level issues for Stage Two of the policy process this year.

First is the identification of models for integrated management. We need to look at systems for consistent decision-making across a wide range of operations.

Second is the need for holistic management systems. New Zealanders have a very wide range of values in relation to the sea: cultural, economic, recreational, scientific, ecological, aesthetic, spiritual and more. We need to identify management systems that can take account of them all, as well as the very diverse physical qualities of the marine environment.

We need to determine how we are going to bring about compliance with these management systems – and enforce them if necessary. Policies that encourage voluntary compliance will be a high priority.

We need to settle on decision making models that make it clear where, when, how and by whom decisions are made and implemented – whether nationally, regionally, or locally.

We need to work out how the Treaty of Waitangi partnership is going to function in relation to the Oceans Policy. Both tangata whenua and Crown have rights, but just as importantly they have responsibilities.

We need an information management framework that will help us identify what we need to learn about the marine environment. When launching this process a little over a year ago I suggested our knowledge of the oceans was no better than European knowledge of terrestrial ecosystems a century ago. Much of the life in our seas is still unknown to us, or poorly understood.

The last of the seven big issues is how we monitor and measure what we put in place. We must be able to judge to what extent we are succeeding or failing, so we can make any changes necessary.

These are all big questions. There are no easy answers. Nor is there any one set of answers that will last forever. This is policy that we must settle soon, but then allow to evolve as values and knowledge change.

Officials are due to report to ministers with a work programme by the end of next month. We are determined that it will continue to be an inclusive process, with plenty of opportunities for participation.

We will also be looking for a small reference group, of about five wise people, who can help us work through the issues as we go. This will not be a decision-making group, or a group of representatives or advocates of particular stakeholders. It will be a resource for ministers, a sounding board for ideas. An advisory group of public sector chief executives will also help us.

I cannot emphasise enough, however, that the Oceans Policy must be the product of a broad, collective effort if it is to succeed. New Zealanders in all sectors of the economy and society need to recognise their collective interest in having an integrated, widely agreed policy for managing our relationship with our oceans.

The Government is committed to taking the lead on this. Many others, in particular many Maori, have begun to engage. Some have worked out that getting the big picture right will increase the chances of the details falling into place where they should.

This process means letting go of the approach so often taken to public policy issues, which is to identify the interests of your sector, constituency, iwi, corporate, membership, or whatever, then lobby hard for the policy that will maximise those interests with little or no regard for others. That will not work this time.

Ministers cannot referee the clash of interests in our oceans and produce a formula for compromise that everyone can live with. New Zealanders themselves need to identify what is most important to them in their relationship with our oceans and what they are prepared to trade off or compromise. That is what the Oceans Policy process is about.

It is a lot to ask, I know. But it will pay off handsomely if we succeed.

Ka tika a uta
Ka tike a tai

[If all is right on land,
Thus will the sea be cared for]


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