When you turn the globe such that it displays the most sea and the least land, it would look like the picture shown here. Close to the centre of this water hemisphere lies New Zealand, flanked by two continents, Australia and Antarctica. This image reflects much about the nature of New Zealanders who call themselves Kiwis after the endemic nocturnal bird. New Zealand has enjoyed and suffered its isolation. Being remote from the population centres has its advantages and disadvantages.
As a colony of the British Empire, New Zealand was settled by British immigrants, although a Dutch sea captain, Abel Tasman, discovered this country before the British Captain Cook. The local inhabitants, the Maori, accepted the arrival of the white man, the Pakeha, with mixed blessings. The newcomers took land and power but they brought welfare and protection and a new kind of income from land sales and trade. New Zealand's isolation has prevented waves of immigrants so that the current population is around 4 million people, most living in the main urban centres of Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton, Christchurch and Dunedin. This makes New Zealand one of the least populated countries in the world.
The land, which was originally clad in variants of native bush and vegetation, was mostly cleared to make way for grazing (Sheep on the hills, cattle on the lowlands). With the invention of refrigerated freight, New Zealand has been able to sell its agricultural products to its main market, Britain. Since the consolidation of the European (Exclusive) Economic Community (EEC), and its consequent restrictions on trade, New Zealand has developed other markets, among them the USA, the Middle East and Japan. As a result of reciprocal trade, NZ finds itself now on a veritable cross-roads of cultures: Maori, Anglo-Saxon, European, American, Japanese. With the expansion of trade to the Pacific Basin, the Asian 'tigers' of Singapore, Hongkong, Taiwan, Korea, India and China have found a foothold here. Not surprisingly, the variety of ethnic restaurants found in NZ's main centres is perhaps second to none.
Due to New Zealand's isolation and low population, the seas are still largely unspoilt. With the establishment of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 200 sea miles (370Km) around all land and islands, the fisheries in these waters which previously were dominated by Japanese, Chilean and Russian ships, could be controlled. New Zealand was the first to introduce a quota system for fish catches. On an annual basis the Minister for Fisheries establishes a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for each commercial species. It is thought that this method will be adequate for managing our fisheries sustainably.
Unfortunately, history could not prevent a number of fisheries collapses to happen, reason why people within the academic community have been looking for alternatives to protect the sea. The University of Auckland has a Marine Laboratory near Leigh. This site was chosen because it is located on the boundary of the protection offered by the Hauraki Gulf, enclosed by Little Barrier and Great Barrier Islands. The lab's proximity to Goat Island would prove to be a major benefit, since this island interrupts the monotony of the exposed coast, providing sheltered habitats of various kinds. The sea is clear beacause the area of land draining into it (its catchment area) is small.
In 1975 an area around Goat Island was set aside for the nation's first marine reserve, gazetted as the Cape Rodney to Okakari Point (CROP) marine reserve. At the time, nobody could have imagined its ultimate popularity with the general public who come here in droves in summer when the sun shines and the sea is calm. Attracting about 160,000 visitors each year, the marine reserve is now buckling under the burden of its success.
In June 1976 the Anthoni family who arrived in New Zealand in October 1975, bought a 25 acre (10 Ha) farmlet at the entrance to Goat Island road, which in 1993 opened its doors as the first marine education centre for the public. Since then the Seafriends Marine Conservation and Education Centre has gradually furthered the concept of marine conservation, while at the same time educating school children about the sea they will inherit. (See History)
Seafriends Marine Conservation & Education Centre and Café: 7 Goat Island Rd; Leigh; Ph/Fx 094226212; e-mail.
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