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World Heritage status – What Does It Mean To Us?

Increasing concern over the continued decline in the health of the Hauraki Gulf and the lack of a positive plan to address the largely unchecked human impact on our marine ecosystems dictates the need for urgent action.
 |  Ady Cole-Ewen  | 

We may not be able to dictate the future of the entire Hauraki Gulf but it is time to set a standard and protect the greater Mercury Bay Area. “The Great Bay of Hei”.

Hopefully, our actions may be followed by others.

DETERMINED to move forward, to protect and preserve our heritage for future generations, we returned to the UNESCO World Heritage Convention New Zealand website.

Globally there are 1,121 World Heritage Sites, both Cultural and Natural.

Each has had to satisfy at least one of ten possible selection criteria, adjudicated by the World Heritage Committee.

That selection criteria must determine the site possesses “OUTSTANDING UNIVERSAL VALUE”.

With each such listing comes global recognition, cultural pride, economic rewards and protection from commercial exploitation.

World National Heritage Sites are protected by law through THE COMMONWEALTH ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AND BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION ACT. It offers us the protection we need without interfering with recreational fishing, diving, and other water based activities, including our tourist attractions. A Rahui can be applied as required.

(NB. The above ACT forms the main environmental law for Australia. It gives them a legal framework to protect and manage unique plants, animals, habitats and places. These include World Heritage Sites, marine areas and some wetlands. The ACT also protects listed threatened and migratory species. Why has N.Z. not followed this path?

we can be a candidate

We are confident that the greater Mercury Bay area is a candidate for this international honour. It meets many of the criteria. It is a place of magnificent natural beauty, with notable landforms, seascapes and biodiversity. Many species of marine mammals and birds (many on the endangered spectrum) are found here. Just as notably, it has been the scene of some of the most important events in this country’s history; the feats of navigation and endurance, remarkable in the history of the world, that brought the voyagers Kupe, Toi and Hei 3000ks across the Pacific Ocean to Mercury Bay using an extraordinary understanding of ocean patterns, air currents and astronomy. Successfully navigating this vast body of water in ways that would not be replicated for hundreds of years.

That Captain James Cook’s visit to Wharetaewa Pa in Mercury Bay was the first sanctioned powhiri between Maori and European is also extremely significant in the history of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Cook, who charted the area (his maps are still used), they were so accurate) made important contributions to scientific knowledge with his observations of the transit of Mercury.

someone who can help us

I introduce Professor Gordon Maxwell, FRSB, FLS a N.Z. scientist who has carried out many coastal ecological and resource-use projects in many countries.He has  been closely associated with a substantial scheme that has seen World Heritage Status achieved for a large coastal ecosystem in Southern Thailand. Professor Maxwell  commented that:-

“Mercury Bay has a quality and special character which gives it a status in a World Heritage context under UNESCO guidelines. This Bay has ecological, landscape, historical and cultural attributes which are equal to some I have had first-hand experience of in my work with UNESCO and World Heritage projects.”

Professor Maxwell is very supportive and enthusiastic about this proposal.

He also adds that the arrival of World Heritage Status to Mercury Bay would bring a much needed boost to our national will to take care of the world class environmental assets that bless Aotearoa, encouraging all Kiwis to value their land and their sea.

WHS would ensure that our Marine Reserve will not fall prey to the death and destruction happening elsewhere in the Hauraki Gulf. Given a chance, Nature will restore, revive and thrive.

Continuing as we are, with intensive fish and shellfish farming, we will condemn and destroy. The mussels in the Hauraki Gulf are dying which means the ocean that used to support them is dying.

Let’s stand together and make a difference. Let’s show the rest how we can restore our ocean and celebrate our land together.

The beauty and pristine nature of the coastline and waters of the Hauraki Gulf are key in the effort to attain World Heritage status.

Comments from others who have had past experience with UNESCO World Heritage Sites;-

1. World Heritage Status offers protection in perpetuity of natural, cultural and historic sites which are being lost forever in a rapidly developing world.

2. This would serve to put Ngati Hei, their culture and heritage on the global map and bring huge mana to their iwi.

3. World Heritage Sites are a Mecca for Tourism and could open up great opportunities for the entire Coromandel Peninsula.

We need to be thinking in much broader terms about how we value our heritage, and utilise World Heritage Status to protect those areas where humans first touched these lands, and preserve for future generations where they left some mark or record of their presence.

Prof Maxwell has agreed to front a Public Meeting when he arrives in New Zealand. He will be happy to discuss all aspects of WHS and answer all will be a local meeting. Watch this space!