Community event to protect Coromandel marine environment

01 Jun 2021

Organisers of a public event focusing on the health of marine life around the Coromandel Peninsula say the time is right for a collective community approach to addressing long-term issues threatening our oceans.

On Saturday this week (5 June), scientists, conservationists, iwi leaders, local officials, and recreational and commercial fishers, among others, will come together in Whitianga to learn about the state of our coastal marine ecosystems and the need for greater protection. The event, “Our Oceans - Our Future,” has been inspired by a Ngati Hei rahui over the scallop beds at Opito Bay, backed by the Opito Bay Residents and Ratepayers Association, and various fishing clubs and environment groups. 

According to co-organiser of the public event, Cooks Beach resident Sharyn Morcom, the rahui was a great example of a community-led response to an environmental crisis and showed what was possible through working together.

Noting several recent documentaries highlighting the degradation of the marine environment as well as the most recent report of the Hauraki Gulf Forum, “State of our Gulf,” and the Sea Change Tai Timu Tai Pari Hauraki Gulf Marine Spatial Plan, Sharyn said the issues were well known could not be ignored any longer. “Enough is enough,” she said. “At the end of the day, we are a just a group of concerned citizens and we can see what’s happening. I’ve been here for 25 years, my husband has been here all his life. We hear the stories about all the sea life that used to exist around our coasts that’s just not there anymore.”

While the meeting is intended to be an open forum for discussion where all those who have an interest in our oceans can share their views, Sharyn believes legislative protection would be the ultimate goal. “That’s just my view, but there are no pre-determined outcomes for the meeting,” she said. “It is an opportunity to listen to the science and for the community to make some decision on what it would like to see happen going forward.” 

Speakers will include Ngati Hei kaumatua Joe Davis, marine scientist Dr Tim Haggitt and Hauraki Gulf Forum CEO Alex Rogers, who will share facts and observations on the state of the Hauraki Gulf and the Coromandel coastline. Sir Michael Fay will also attend in support of his conservation aspirations for Ahuahu/Great Mercury Island. “Just having all these high profile people from different backgrounds coming together in one room shows just how important this discussion is and how important it is that we see some sort of action,” Sharyn said.

The speakers will be followed by a panel discussion with a variety of stakeholders to hear concerns and encourage ideas on marine protection concepts for the area. 

Another of the organisers, local scientist, Thomas Everth, says everyone has a vested interest in this conversation as the ocean is fundamental to our lifestyle on the Coromandel.  “Whether you reside on the Coromandel year-round, visit on weekends, own a business that depends on a pristine ocean environment or maybe just catch the odd kingy off the wharf - we want to hear from you,” he said. 

The meeting will take place from 3:00pm to 5:00pm at C3 Church in Coghill Street. Entry is free, but koha will be welcome to help cover costs.