Over on Waiheke Island, a ground-breaking event will take place at the end of this month to inspire long-term, voluntary action to protect and regenerate the island’s marine environment.
Diverse voices will come together to imagine a unified future where both the moana/sea and its people will thrive. While still in its early stages, the Waiheke Marine Project holds promise to lead the way in local, community-led restoration programmes for the wider Hauraki Gulf Marine Park/Ko te Pātaka kai o Tīkapa.
With efforts to remove predators from Waiheke Island well and truly underway, through an eradication project named Te Korowai o Waiheke, the conversation in the community turned to a more complex issue facing the island – the decline of its marine environment. Waiheke Island is located within the 1.2 million-hectare Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, New Zealand’s only national park of the sea. The Park’s decline is well documented in the Hauraki Gulf Forum’s State of the Gulf reports. The Park is used by many different groups and individuals, most with overlapping and, often, conflicting interests. This makes finding a consensus to move forward very difficult. However, mana whenua and the community of Waiheke are willing to have the korero/talks about the management of their big blue backyard. The Waiheke Marine Project group is using a planning tool called Future Search to help bring people together to find a common, workable solution for all.
Coined the Waiheke Marine Project (the Project), it is the second venture of the Waiheke Collective – a group of individuals, groups and organisations who have united to bring existing conservation efforts together to create a flourishing natural environment for Waiheke Island. The Project was initiated at a meeting of the Collective in April 2019, at which all thirty people in the room agreed to embark on – a unifying gesture for the protection and regeneration of Tīkapa Moana/Hauraki Gulf.
About Waiheke Marine Project
The project is in keeping with recommendations set out in the Sea Change – Tai Timu Tai Pari (Hauraki Gulf Marine Spatial Plan), that suggests near-shore coastal protection plans should be developed by the communities themselves to achieve more buy in. By doing so, it also enables the Waiheke Collective to achieve a joined-up, action-based approach, across both land and marine management.
Importantly, Ngāti Paoa, key mana whenua (people with authority over the land) of Waiheke Island, are active partners in the Waiheke Marine Project, making sure the Mātauranga Māori voice is clear and strong and that over time the marine project be a truly co-managed project with the community.
A core outcome for the Project is to achieve a restored, healthy marine environment providing a living as well as a lifestyle to the communities who have worked so hard to look after it, now and for generations to come.
What’s the problem the Project is trying to solve?
Tīkapa Moana is under threat from a number of factors: population growth, increased sedimentation, invasive pests, over-fishing, as well as pollution. These factors have degraded the marine habitats and significantly reduced kelp forests, shellfish beds, and the number and size of fish to name just a few – all of which has been witnessed, first-hand, by islanders who enjoy its waters. Their observations and concerns are beautifully captured in the series “Conversations in Isolation”. All agree that the need to preserve, conserve and help rehabilitate degraded marine habitats is essential for the health of the Gulf and survival of the species that call it home.
Where things are at and how things will move forward
Since 2019, efforts to tell the story of the Project and share information have been underway and will culminate with a 3-day event from 30 October – 1 November. Seventy-six people will attend to bring perspectives from nine different voice categories: locals, mana whenua, fishers & boaties, conservationists, youth, land interests, marine businesses, scientists, and agencies & politicians. The event will provide the opportunity to gather and share the science as well as the stories about the marine ecosystems around Waiheke Island. There are no preconceived outcomes for the event, apart from the need to have a broad, action-focused discussion on marine protection and regeneration. The aforementioned Future Search tool will be used, a unique action-planning meeting resource that is used worldwide to help diverse voices discover what they hold in common.
About Future Search
In general, there is an assumption that to successfully manage large groups of diverse people with a common outcome, but different priorities, is to bring in a host of expert speakers (or panellists) who would be able to answer people’s questions. Future Search challenges these assumptions and turns them upside down. The methodology is to replace speeches with working sessions with a wide range of parties who have information, authority to act and a stake in the outcome. The kaupapa/work ethic behind Future Search also believes that people make different choices when they are in dialogue with others, then they would when either working alone, or, only with familiar faces.
A summary of the Future Search Hui will be discussed at public venues around Waiheke Island late in November. This will provide an opportunity for the broader Waiheke community to offer feedback and contribute to a presentation to the Ministers of Conservation and Fisheries.