Lessons from Leigh and how marine reserves can fail By Dr J Floor Anthoni (2003)
The goat Island marine reserve in Leigh, has
been New Zealand's first. Created in a climate of opposition, it has become
a very popular place while silently propagating the marine conservation
message as it draws over 100,000 visitors per year. Schools arrive from
far afield to give their students a taste of their marine heritage. But
it also has shown its failings. This chapter explores all these issues
in order to be able to create better marine reserves, and to manage them
Created as a place for scientific study, the reserve has inspired its
many visitors. Being able to swim amongst thousands of friendly fishes,
has first created awareness, then awe, followed by support for saving the
sea. (on this page)
When the marine reserve was opened, education was never mentioned as
a potential benefit. However, over time, as the environment around Auckland
degraded further, schools chose to travel for two hours to find a place
with marine life and clear water.
The marine reserve protects scientific experiments, allowing scientists
undisturbed study of the sea but recently, research became more and more
politically focused. Monitoring is important for any marine reserve but
it should focus on all species and whether the reserve's objectives are
When doing scientific experiments, it is often necessary to erect experimental
structures on the shore or underwater, like cages, tiles, cables and so
on. These structures have been left to rot, while leaving harmful obstacles
for the visiting public.
It could be argued that a marine reserve could run itself, but wherever
people congregate, some form of management is needed. The centrally led
management of the Goat Island reserve has shown that it leaves much to
A glass bottom boat has become a popular way to experience the marine
reserve, particularly for those unable to go into the water. Many consider
it an excellent idea, but it interferes with the pleasures of others. What
should one do?
The Marine Laboratory of the University of Auckland is not contented
teaching university level science, and now plans to open an outreach centre
for the public. Madness? "The planned Edith Winstone Blackwell
Interpretive Centre will provide a facility for these visitors and also
outreach programmes for primary and secondary school students, including
local and Maori educational programmes."
related pages on this web site
To feed or not?
Is feeding the fish inside a marine reserve a bad thing? An In-depth article
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The Goat Island marine reserve in Leigh had a long gestation period, because
it was the first of its kind in New Zealand. Marine reserves have always
been an option in the Fisheries Act, but as conservationists became wary
of fisheries management, a new act was crafted, the Marine Reserves Act
1971 (MRA71). When the Department of Conservation (DoC) was formed after
the new-right governments took hold in 1984, it was given the responsibility
to administer the MRA.
The original idea was to provide undisturbed conditions so that scientists
and research students could make observations without any interference.
But the ideas proved useful and popular in many other ways. After a long
fight with numerous objectors, the marine reserve was eventually gazetted
in 1975, but it took until 1977 that it was formally opened, and signs
put up. From that moment, the reserve effectively took shape.
The Goat Island marine reserve was effectively New Zealand's first,
and nobody could predict how it would develop further and how many more
reserves would be needed. Remember that the Marine Reserves Act 1971 (MRA71)
specifies clearly that the sole purpose of marine reserves is that of scientific
research. By 1996, this Act was revised considerably, to include more reasons
for having them, reflecting the change in thinking (MRA96).
Internationally, marine reserves were increasingly seen as a tool for saving
the marine environment in the face of failing fisheries management. The
word insurance was often touted. Scientists from New Zealand and
elsewhere travelled around the world to broadcast the success of the Goat
Island marine reserve, using it as a success story, and this is how people
overseas know it, as the failures of the reserve were kept secret.
Indeed, the public rated the reserve successful. After about ten years
of a luke-warm reception, visitor numbers suddenly started to increase
since about 1988, as people learned to enjoy the sea without a need of
catching fish. It changed their attitudes, finding out that fish can be
enjoyed more intensively in a non-extractive, and completely sustainable
way. But it happened by feeding the fish, which became tame and numerous
because of this. The clusters of fish taking food from visitors attracted
other fish which were attracted by safety in numbers. The number
of visitors at one stage rose above 140,000 per year. People arrived in
bus loads to feed the blue maomao and snapper in a channel off Hormosira
Originally attracted by the thrill of feeding the fishes, people could
not avoid reading the information displays about marine life and marine
conservation. It taught people more about the underwater environment. Schools
started to include marine reserves in their curricula.
f013008: View of the almost non-existent Goat Island beach
at low tide. People also used the grassed areas. Many people are standing
in knee-deep water to feed the friendly fishes.
f007701: During calm days with clear water, the sea becomes
an underwater paradise with tame fish at close distance. Here is Mr
Perfect, a large snapper which has stayed resident for many years.
To the casual visitor at least, the marine reserve looked successful
as evidenced by the many fish close to the beach. Scientists also measured
an increase in fish numbers, which they took as proof that marine reserves
are working. However, in this chapter, some of the more unsuccessful (and
often invisible) aspects of the marine reserve will be shown by someone
who has lived here since the beginning of this marine reserve, while making
frequent dives with movie and still cameras, and training students in its
f015819: the shallow, warm rock pools are popular by children
and adults alike, but their treading causes damage to the shore environment.
However, the deeper and cooler part of the rock pool, in the foreground,
has been left undisturbed.
f015820: The rock pools attract children to the never ending
adventure of discovering what lives there. Here a boy is attracting shrimps
and triplefins with food.
f015200: particularly for people who are new to New Zealand,
watching has become a totally new experience.
Marine reserves with good access
and clear water, located close to population centres are the most successful.
Marine reserves in murky water
will not attract visitors for fish watching and diving.
Marine research can co-exist
with the presence of visitors who refrain from taking.
It takes some time before people
warm up to the idea that fish watching is enjoyable.
Even when people do not take
from the reserve, their presence can cause changes, such as treading on
sensitive areas, turning of stones and changing fish behaviour (even when
not feeding them).
The popularity of Goat Island extended to schools who came from far afield
to find marine life and clear water. In 1992 the Seafriends Marine Conservation
and Education Centre opened its doors as the first place in New Zealand
to educate the public about the marine environment and conservation. Over
3000 students each year come here to study the rocky shore, experience
a snorkeldive with full protective gear, and hear lectures about the sea.
The Seafriends seawater aquariums show them the marine life from nearby.
Without the vicinity of a marine reserve, such activities would have been
hard to imagine.
The school visits also made visible the damage done by people to the
sensitive reefs in the intertidal zone. Towards the end of each season,
there is just less to see. People also removed shells and other sea artifacts
from above the high tide, which is perfectly legal. However, the rules
had to be sharpened such that no natural object should be removed from
the beach. We also pioneered the initiative to visit the rocky reefs on
bare foot only. This has shown to be much less damaging to shore life.
Seafriends has also sharpened safety issues while taking groups in the
water. Unfortunately many schools still arrive with inadequate gear and
safety procedures. It must be noted here that schools think that safety
is promoted by having more parents in the water, but this is not true.
Safety is entirely dependent on the right equipment (full wetsuits) and
an intimate knowledge of local conditions. More parents in the water just
causes new problems, as most are inadequate swimmers, and inexperienced
in this pursuit and the local conditions.
Seafriends has learnt over time, that it is more important to convey
a sense of amazement and enthusiasm for matters of the sea, rather than
scholarly facts. We work with enthusiastic professionals who have a heart
for their work. Education outside the classroom (EOTC) requires students
to listen to others than school teachers.
Whereas people do cause physical damage to the rocky shore by treading,
they cannot do much damage once they are swimming in the water. This is
because the water carries their weight entirely. Because water is about
800 times denser than air, waves cause far more damage than people can
ever do. Large numbers of people in the water can thus be supported sustainably.
f960810: on the rocky shore, students watch and listen as
an instructor shows them the treasures and miracles of intertidal life.
This group still has their shoes on.
f951921: by asking students to take their shoes off, the
marine life on the rocks, has a longer lease on life. Particularly limpets
are sensitive. However, some teachers object because it increases the risk
of cuts and scratches.
f214320: full of expectation, children descend to the beach,
while dressed in fully protective wetsuits and snorkelgear designed for
f214323: before going into the water, students and parents
are instructed how to use the gear and how to behave in the water.
One of the most important reasons
of having marine reserves is education.
An educational marine reserve
must have good access and clear water, and an accessible rocky shore with
rock pools. It must also be located near a dense population centre.
Going bare-foot saves marine
life but somewhat increases the risk of cuts and bruises. Children obtain
more value because they can access the rock pools, while their feet also
perceive valuable information.
To minimise damage, behavioural
rules must be taught: to turn stones in such a way as to minimise damage;
to return these carefully to their old position; to avoid stepping on camouflaged
sea life (camouflage crabs, sea hares, etc). This must begin at schools
because during the visit there is so much else to learn.
Artifacts from the sea must
be protected as much as marine life, including pieces of polished glass.
Safe swimming and shore instruction
is best left to local operators.
Education outside the classroom
is best done by those who know what they are talking about, and who can
convey a sense of amazement and enthusiasm.
A marine reserve must be seen
to make a difference. It makes no sense to guide children in a sea devoid
of fish or on a rocky shore with nothing to discover.
Problems with fish feeding
Feeding the friendly fishes became the most popular pastime of a visit
to Goat Island. Visitors asked "Where can I feed the fishes?" rather than
"Where is the marine reserve?". People had fun creating feeding frenzies,
placing food inside their dive masks, or holding food between their lips.
Of course accidents were reported, such as torn lips, ears and fingers.
Also during the height of the season, the water close to the beach became
murkier, supposedly because of decaying food. Read the article To
feed or not? for more details.
But worse came after a junior official with the Department of Conservation
prohibited the fish feeding altogether, without consulting the local community.
Feeding was declared unnatural, unhealthy and an offence punishable under
the MRA. First people ignored the ruling, while others removed the signs.
When people were stopped entering the water with food, they resorted to
breaking the sea urchins, which the fish loved even more than human food.
People did so, even while knowing that heavy penalties were due for such
It did not take long for the fish to realise that staying near the beach
made no economic sense, and they disappeared in droves, and with them those
fish that came for safety in numbers. Soon people noticed the disappearance
of fish, and they stayed away too. Local businesses noticed the loss of
income. For instance, Seafriends lost over $30,000 in each of the years
following the feeding ban. It seriously hampered our efforts in saving
the sea. For their first visit to a marine reserve, children were no longer
seeing fish nearby and in large numbers. On many snorkel trips out, some
saw no fish at all during a 50 minute swim !!
The people who manage this reserve, seldom or never are in the water,
and they have but a rudimentary understanding of marine matters. They were
unaware that since 1990, the ingress of mud into the reserve, had become
the largest threat. Mud flows from the denuded and degrading land surrounding
the reserve, and from the Pakiri River further west. It has suffocated
and killed underwater life, and driven entire species out of the marine
reserve, while also changing habitat structure. In June-Sept 1998 this
problem became so pressing that nearly all crayfish walked out of the reserve.
The friendly fishes thus experience a stress to move away from the beach,
whereas the feeding attracted them in. Those species that cannot move easily,
either died or stayed away. Now that the balance had shifted, the fish
What was infuriating about DoC's decision, was that the problem was
not in the feeding itself, but in the quantity fed during a limited period
of the year. This problem could easily have been turned into a learning
opportunity, by explaining it to the public, giving various alternative
solutions, and letting them do what suits them best, while taking responsibility
for their actions. Now that far fewer people are visiting the reserve,
also an opportunity for education has evaporated.
The following rules could have been applied: Only
close to the beach. Only a handful per person. Never on SCUBA. Never sea
urchins. Don't buy food. Give some of your own lunch pack. Children only.
Another missed opportunity was that of losing support for marine reserves.
Not DoC, nor University, nor Government in the end were as effective in
broadcasting the conservation message, as were the blue and pink fish that
people came to feed.
f015827: a girl stands in knee-deep water as the blue fishes
gather towards the food in her outstretched hand. People came to believe
and hope that children of many generations on, would be able to experience
f010206: A snorkeldiver feeds out small amounts of food to
attract fish. As can be seen, the fish respond eagerly. In the picture
blue maomao, blue cod and parore.
f022018: people have appeared on the fishes' horizon, hopefully
with food. Here a school of blue maomao is seen jostling for a better position.
f015204: in trying to be very friendly towards the fishes,
people brought more and more food, which eventually became a problem. See
the blue maomao in the water and the (saturated) ducks in the top right?
f028216: a snorkeldiver plays with a sea urchin to attract
the snapper from far around. Fish have learnt that urchins mean food and
that divers are keen to please.
f030227: a diver follows an urchin trail, picking up parts
of urchins that have been fed to these snapper, kelpfish and spotties.
The fish are still interested, having little else to do all day.
f022025: young snapper mill around, waiting for food to arrive
from above. Seeing such aggregations of fish was an exciting experience,
now long lost.
f030237: large snapper command the upper strata, closer to
the source of food. Note how the water has become murky from wastes and
Feeding can become a problem,
but before attempting to control it, the whole situation must be assessed.
The local community and those
using the reserve most, must be consulted first.
Management actions like prohibitions
can have a profound economic backlash on the local community.
The problem was not the feeding
itself, but the quantity fed during a short period of the year.
There was no urgency to stop
the feeding. A more gradual approach would have been better.
In every problem hides an opportunity
for education and learning self-control and responsibility. This was missed
When people are there, they
can be educated. When they no longer come, they can't.
Conservation does not work best
with 100% compliance at 100% of the costs, but better with 80/20%.
Feeding rules: Only
close to the beach. Only a handful per person. Never on SCUBA. Never sea
urchins. Don't buy food. Give some of your own lunch pack. Children only.
the public to help mitigate a problem, rather than placing a ban.
Size, shape and location
The Goat Island marine reserve was the first of its kind and it is understandable
that its boundaries could be improved upon. At the time the rocky shore
habitat was seen as its most important part, containing most of its species
diversity and inviting most of the scientific experiments. It was thought
that a ribbon of 800m width would be all that was necessary to protect
The main reason for selecting this area was Goat Island and the shelter
it provided. The coast here was always known for its clear waters, due
to the very narrow rain catchment area bordering it. It was a very special
place with an unusual amount of sea life. So it was the most logical place
to have a marine reserve.
But for the same reasons, it cannot serve as a baseline to compare 'outside'
coasts with. However, scientists seldom make such distinction in their
publications about the benefits of marine reserves.
The marine reserve is 5km long and 800m wide, but because it curves
around Goat Island, its area is effectively 5.2km2, which is too small
to be sustainable. A sustainable reserve is thought to be able to exist
by itself without the need of the area around, while also not being drained
by it. It needs to be sufficiently large to do so. However, even then it
is still dependent on the amount and quality of the plankton imported from
other areas. It is now thought that 'sustainable' marine reserves should
be as large as 100km2 rather than 5km2. A reserve is sustainable only if
it does not degrade. However, Goat Island has shown to be degrading fast.
It was insufficiently recognised at the time, that the seemingly monotonous
sandy bottom was important for reef fishes and rocklobsters. On a regular
basis, these animals migrate to their 'feeding grounds' of dog cockles,
horse mussels, dosinia and scallops far outside the reserve's boundary.
At the time this reserve was created, it was not realised that opposition
came from those who fished the shore rather than those who fished the seabed.
Extending the reserve another 5km out to sea, would have met little additional
opposition but would have added considerable conservation value.
Another major mistake was the choice of the coastal boundaries, which
now run across continuous rocky habitat. It was not predicted that the
reserve's boundaries would invite an unusual amount of fishing. Thus the
boundaries are depleted by fishing but replenished by reef fish moving
out of the reserve into vacated territories. Had the boundaries been located
outside a change in habitat, such as over the nearby sandy beach, such
leakage would have been minimal and correspondingly the harmful effect
of 'fishing the line'.
One of the most serious deficiencies of small reserves is that they
leave no room for buffer zones which buffer the effects of fishing and
mistakes made by not knowing precisely where boundaries run. It must also
be recognised that seamen do not measure distance in kilometres or land
miles but in nautical miles. Reserve boundaries should thus be defined
in nautical miles.
Perhaps trivial, the name of a marine reserve must be simple and easy
to remember. Cape Rodney to Okakari Point marine reserve is wrong
because nobody uses it. Leigh marine reserve or better still, Goat
Island marine reserve are much better names. Many of the (Maori) names
for marine reserves in NZ are just too long and cumbersome.
Marine reserves are usually created in marine hot spots where the water
is clear and fish congregate. But these qualities make them unsuitable
for baseline studies, for example to compare more normal
areas with, when studying the (beneficial) effects of marine reserves.
Such hot spot marine reserves exaggerate the perceived benefits. However,
scientists do not sufficiently acknowledge this.
f981031: dedicated fishermen have walked a long way to fish
the boundary of the marine reserve. Although strictly legal, such fishing
draws fish from the reserve. A wide buffer zone would have helped to reduce
this kind of depletion.
marres04: On this map the ribbon shape of the Goat island
marine reserve can clearly be seen. When one knows that currents pass along
the outside of Goat Island where the bigger fish congregate, it is not
difficult to see that places outside its boundary can be found where bait
will attract fish from deep inside the reserve. A ribbon shaped marine
reserve has too much boundary for its area, whereas a circle or square
would be much better.
The area around the outside of Goat Island is a marine
hot spot in the clearest and deepest water, near currents and feeding grounds,
while offering shelter against waves. Yet scientists do not acknowledge
Marine reserves should be much
larger than 5km2.
Large areas of flat sea bottom
should be included as 'feeding grounds'
Outside boundaries should be
defined in nautical miles.
A ribbon shape is the worst
shape possible. Large squares are better.
Sufficiently wide buffer zones
must be included.
Coastal boundaries must be chosen
to lie outside the contiguous habitat.
Boundaries and corners should
be marked with buoys.
Choose a simple name.
Marine reserves in hot spots
are unsuitable for baseline studies and for making comparisons.
Marine reserves that degrade
are not sustainable.
The Goat Island Road
The Goat Island Road leads from the main coastal route through the Goat
Island valley (Whakatuwhenua Stream) to the Goat Island beach and the Marine
Laboratory. Its climbing and winding part has been tar sealed in the early
1980s but its gently sloping part remained unsealed in gravel or 'metal'
as it is called in New Zealand.
Because of the highly increased amount of traffic to the beach, it was
upgraded in late 1996, but in order that the national roads board pay for
it, it had to satisfy their minimal specifications, which became no less
than a three-lane road. Whereas a slight widening and sealing would have
been sufficient, the job required extensive soil cutting and moving, and
a narrow wooden bridge was replaced by a culvert an much infilling. Once
the work was finished, the barren cuts were left abandoned, for the rains
to wash out and to soil the Goat Island Channel. Not surprisingly, it led
to the disappearance of species in the general area of the beach. But as
we'll see further on, it was not the only source of mud.
We ask ourselves why nobody took action to remedy what was obviously
a major threat to the marine life inside a protected area.
New Zealand has a Resource Management Act which requires that any major
earthworks be done in an environmentally friendly way. For instance, when
establishing the Seafriends educational centre, we had to pass endless
amounts of red tape and scrutiny before we were allowed to have it in this
valley. The local council has classified all land in the catchment area
adjacent to the marine reserve 'special coastal zone' which prohibits activities
that could threaten the marine life. Yet here a major earthmoving activity
was allowed to proceed unchecked. Why?
The roading contractor who did the work, did not work according to common
practice, which requires that the bare cuts be sealed with grass as soon
as the cutting was done, but this was omitted. No provisions were made
to catch runoff during the construction phase. Why?
The local county council who is in the end responsible for the work, did
The Department of Conservation whose task it is to manage the marine reserve,
and to protect the marine environment within, did nothing. Why?
The scientists at the Marine Laboratory, looking out over the Goat Island
Channel every day, and whose experiments in the sea are affected by this
kind of threat, did nothing. Why?
Between June and September 1998, while the road sides were still bleeding
profusely, nearly all crayfish walked out of the marine reserve after a
prolonged period of mud storms. The scientists never made the connection.
The hundreds of thousands of visitors visiting the beach while noticing
the murky water and the reduction in fish life, did nothing. Why?
f970827: a view of the idyllic Goat Island valley with Goat
Island in the distance and the access road clearly visible on right.
f970814: View of the almost-three-lane road which required
an extensive amount of cutting and filling. The road sides have never been
covered and stabilised, resulting in massive erosion and mud entering the
f970816: As the road sides remained barren while caving in,
successive rainstorms washed hundreds of tonnes of mud into the marine
f960508: for many years the Goat Island Channel turned coffee-brown
after each heavy rain fall. Yet nobody took action.
Marine reserves do not protect
against the major threat of mud washed down from the land.
The marine life degrades drastically
because of mud entering the sea.
Visitors, reserve managers and
scientists did not make the connection between mud and degradation.
Mud is a major threat, not only
to marine life, but also to research, recreation, education and commerce.
For every marine reserve there
should be an action plan for rehabilitating the land in its catchment areas
and outside. This plan should entail practical solutions, education and
financial incentives, and should be part of every marine reserve proposal.
In the end, even marine reserves should be sustainable.
Scientists should be more aware
of the threats from mud and focus some of their research on it.
Marine scientists are not necessarily
also good caretakers.
A conservation department with
little experience of and presence in the sea is not a good caretaker.
Coastal erosion is a sad story all over New Zealand but particularly where
the coast has been burnt for grazing. The coasts bordering the Goat Island
marine reserve unfortunately form no exception. Where the coastal forest
descended almost into the sea, farmers saw an opportunity of grazing it.
As a result, the coastal fringe was burnt wherever grass could be established.
The 50-150 years of grazing left its ecological footprint on this coastal
strip through the absence of seedlings and young trees that should take
the place of their parents now that these are dying from old age.
Almost the entire coast of New Zealand has now arrived at a point where
tree roots are no longer able to bind the soil to the steep coast, resulting
in gradual and sudden slides of soil into the sea.
f014208: because a free fence has always been available at
the sea's border, farmers never considered fencing off the coastal strip.
As a result, over 100 years of grazing have dispatched the seedlings and
understorey of the coastal fringe forest. Now the last of the proud trees
are dying from old age, followed by rapid erosion.
f981122: the coast bordering the marine reserve is eroding
badly. Once upon a time, a luscious coastal forest stood here but after
it was burnt, grazers prevented any regrowth. Now the stately Pohutukawa
trees are dying of old age but no seedlings are there to replace them.
Precious soil is lost to the sea where it kills sea life.
f940717: When the water is clear, Goat Island is a magical
place. The fishes think so too. People come from afar to swim with the
friendly fishes. It is a place that could have come from heaven. But since
the mid 1980s the situation changed quite suddenly.
f960507: during storms the mud collected on the sea bottom
is stirred up, clouding the waters.
f212406: Heavy rain storms now colour the water brown
as it runs off from degrading lands surrounding the reserve and the Pakiri
River located west of it.
Where coasts are steep and farmers did not take the torch to the trees,
the vegetation is under attack of a little monster introduced from Australia
where it has in the meantime become endangered. The possum (as opposed
to the American opossum), a marsupial, lives its entire life in
the trees, descending only to make long journeys to other trees. In its
pouch, a mother possum rears one joey which grows independent within
one year. As a result, the fecundity of this species is enormous.
One would think that trees are productive enough to survive the possum's
grazing, but this is not the case in New Zealand, where the vegetation
has developed very frugally. Thus contrary to expectation, native trees
do not survive the grazing of possums, which has resulted in entire coasts
being denuded. Now one can see the yellow bands of eroding soil where once
trees stood but even this will eventually become invisible. In the end
it will seem that New Zealand has always had denuded coasts.
f970534: a mother possum lies dead on the road and here joey
did not survive either. New Zealanders do not dodge possums on the road
since every dead one helps to fight their plague.
f014321: death by possum happens gradually first, but then
suddenly as these bleached trees testify. Within ten years no sign will
be left of the massacre caused by possums grazing their foliage. Bad land
care? This land at Cape Brett is managed by the Dept of Conservation!
f014324: a small moat between this island and the main land
on right stops possums from crossing. On the right the trees are dead.
No bird cries are heard. The little island, however, is alive with bird
noises, and by night the screeching of sea birds and little blue penguins.
Then DoC applied a possum poison (1080?). Now the island
remains quiet by day and night. Fighting the possum plague is not easy.
f970714: People have peculiar ways of thinking. Here a precious
stand of old Pohutukawa trees has been banded with aluminium sheet to prevent
possums from climbing them. Although it saves the old trees, it does not
save the seedlings and saplings which must one day replace them.
Protection of the sea cannot
be passive, like creating a marine reserve and doing nothing.
Saving the sea begins on the
land and the coastal fringe is an important part. Controlling possums and
other parts is also important.
The coastal fringe is difficult
to manage because it is steep and often inaccessible.
Fencing the coastal strip, followed
by aerial applications of fertiliser to promote the growth of vegetation
is a practical way to fight coastal erosion.
Every marine reserve application
must have a practical coastal management plan.
Roading and other earth works
must be done with more care than usual and supervised by the reserve management
Incentives must be provided
to farmers to fight erosion more effectively.
The local community must be
involved and also in the decision making.
Depending on how intensively the sea outside has been fished, the stocks
of fished species inside a marine reserve will recover, usually by 2-3
times but sometimes more. It means that fishing inside becomes very rewarding.
As the word goes out, often exaggerating about the bounties inside, it
tempts people to poach.
Poaching is done consciously and in a way not to be detected, as opposed
to those who really don't know about the reserve. So these sneaky escapades
are hard to detect and the offenders hard to catch. But the world is small,
and eventually the person becomes exposed by someone in the know.
In the beginning of any marine reserve, poaching is frequent because
of those who oppose the reserve but mainly because people have to get used
to the new situation. Often a word is enough to stop it altogether. In
Leigh even the most ardent poachers have given up under the pressure of
derision by their mates. But there is a good story to be told.
The sunken car wrecks A marine reserve is particularly unfair to those fishermen who depended
on the area for fishing. One would think that the sea is an open access
fishery but this is not so in practice. Commercial fishermen have unwritten
agreements on who fishes where, and so it can happen that the burden of
displacement falls on only a very few.
Once the marine reserve becomes a fact, the only place to fish is on
its boundaries, which explains why fishing there is often done by those
displaced. The seaward boundary of the reserve runs into a flat sandy bottom
with good stocks of burrowed clams, fan shells and a scallop here and there.
It is a fishing ground for fish, or a feeding ground. Snapper make daily
migrations out of the reserve to visit such feeding grounds and even rocklobsters
do so. They even stay on the sand, forming aggregations guarded by large
males. In this manner the rocklobster fishery on the Chatham Islands rose
to fame, where fishermen caught these crayfish with trawl nets!
But trawling is prohibited closer than 0.5 nautical miles in winter
and 1.0nm in summer. By comparison, the boundary of the reserve lies within
800m or 0.468nm. An error of judgement is easily made of course, particularly
since the outside boundary is not marked. So one trawler of a big fishing
company did the dirty and trawled its net through the reserve by night,
to bag 500kg of crayfish or a cashie as it is known, fetching $20/kg
on the black market. This was a $10,000 windfall profit for the crew, worthy
of imitation and so it happened.
However, in the process, these trawlers also scooped up the precious
lobster traps (craypots) which annoyed the local cray fisherman no end.
He complained, but received good laughter. Then he conceived a clever plan.
He parked a number of car wrecks on the Leigh wharf, and by means of a
strong tether, swooped them off the wharf deck into the sea, where he trawled
them to within GPS precision inside the reserve's boundary. Several more
car wrecks followed and the news was broadcast.
It had the expected effect and protected his cray pots. However, a Leigh
trawler ended up stuck in a car wreck (oops) and began to complain to the
Maritime Safety Authority which then began to lean heavily on the poor
fisherman. The situation had now become a SAFETY issue and the car wrecks
had to go! So it happened. But the word remained that one was not quite
sure whether all car wrecks had been retrieved!
The fisherman has in the meantime moved elsewhere and has not bothered
fishing the boundaries of the reserve since 1998 (when the crayfish disappeared?).
Poaching does not happen to marine reserves only. These crayfishermen complain
that about 10% of their catch is poached by others.
The seaward boundary of marine
reserves must be extended far out in sea to include feeding grounds.
Boundaries must have adequately
wide buffer zones.
The boundaries must be marked
to create certainty and to enable policing and compliance.
Boundaries must be simple, like
Marking them with trawlnet-destructing
weights would not seem silly.
Co-operation from local fishermen
is important for compliance.
Some local commercial fishermen
and sustenance fishermen can be unfairly disadvantaged by a new marine
reserve, which must be acknowledged and dealt with.
Policing to enforce the no-take rules is dreaded by all. The idea that
rangers are policing the last bastion of freedom is anathema to boaties,
divers and fishermen. These people wo ply the seas, are of a rugged type,
hardened by the elements and are not easily impressed. Once they
see the need for a marine reserve, they turn into the staunchest of supporters.
But they will never stoop to the lowness of being a ranger. For this office
more gullible and principled types are found, ready to dish out condescending
remarks about 'offences' that do not really matter to the environment,
while being terribly upset about minor issues.
The problems in enforcing rules are as follows:
People must be informed about the presence of the marine reserve, what
its purpose is and how to behave. This requires more signs than one would
intuitively predict. Not surprisingly, most signs cannot be read by the
new Asian immigrants.
It is amazing to count the number of visitors totally new to the idea of
marine reserves, and this one in particular. So the number of potential
trespassers is higher than expected - every day.
People must be given a chance to be responsible. This happens from two
sides. Visitors familiar with the situation are always willing to point
out that certain behaviour is unacceptable. But those visiting a remote
part of the reserve miss out on signage and behaviour by example. Enforcement
always has an element of education.
Whoever in charge of enforcement must realise that there exist many imperfections,
all intent on failing the protection a marine reserve offers. The location,
choice of boundaries, landbased pollution, storm damage and more, all conspire
to this end. This means that any offence is just another push in the wrong
direction but cannot be of critical importance.
One of the main imperfections is the absence of a sufficiently wide buffer
zone. A reserve of only 800m wide has very little room for such a zone.
Not being marked, it is easy to stray 200m inside, thinking that one is
still outside the protected area. The landward boundaries likewise, should
be treated as if a 200m buffer zone were present to prevent misunderstandings
and petty enforcement. However, as will be seen below, enforcers do not
take this precaution.
People perhaps do not realise sufficiently that a marine reserve is a fragile
concept that depends on a succession of educational steps:
The area must have been created with overwhelming consensus, otherwise
too much antipathy remains.
The area must have been marked on all charts and excessive signage including
maps must be present near all points of access, boundaries and boat ramps.
This requires several years of patience.
So people must know where the reserve is and how to behave there.
They must see the need for such behaviour (belief and co-operation).
And they must actually behave as required.
Any breakdown in this process leads to non-compliance.
It takes several years before
charts have been marked, signs erected and people become used to the new
Enforcement has a large educational
component. Give people the chance to make up for their mistakes. Every
wrongdoing has the opportunity for education.
Willing enforcement officers
are often of the wrong type. Those from DoC have shown to be too idealistic
and principled to do the job well.
Petty policing is the worst
Local commercial operators are
perhaps the most suited to keep an eye on affairs.
The world is not perfect; the
sea is not. There are many factors making a reserve less than ideal. Enforcement
must be weighed against these factors. Draconian enforcement may not have
the desired effect.
When there are problems, consider
what could be wrong with management, rather than perpetrators.
Parking Parking and amenities are always a problem since their need cannot
be predicted in advance and also because visitors do not arrive in a steady
stream but mainly in the summer season when during a few weekends they
are shown to be inadequate.
Goat Island Beach has a small lower parking about 30m from the centre of
the beach, with easy access. With some skill, one can turn there. It has
been reserved as a loading zone so that heavy goods such as dive gear can
be dropped off.
The top parking consists of a loop, just wide enough for buses to turn
and angle-park off it. Two tighter loops lead to two terraces lower down.
When fully occupied, visitors park along the access road up to 1km away
from the beach. During such days it is estimated that over 4000 people
are present on the beach and that some 10,000 visit that day by rotation.
There are a number of issues to consider. In the good old days
a gravel country road led to a grassy knoll which was the parking lot.
Visitors met sheep grazing the grass as free grass mowers. A cattle
stop grid prevented the sheep from straying out of the parking lot.
Visitors used all kinds of inventivity to make best use of the available
space, which was neither bordered nor marked. After the weekend, the parking
reverted back to a grassy knoll as if the paddock had never been
disturbed. Today a black tar sealed infrastructure remains when the people
have left. It offers less parking for more space. What went wrong?
On wet days cars could get stuck in the mud pools that developed as
the reserve's success rose. The car park needed hardening. Locals would
have done so with a hardened structure that would let the grass through;
an urban bureaucracy chose for hard tar seal and rigid parkings with wooden
barriers to prevent cars from straying out. Why?
Suddenly it became an offence to park in a creative way. Suddenly there
were quite fewer parkings. Was this necessary?
When the three-lane highway was completed, there was ample room to dedicate
one lane to angle parking along up to 500m away. Instead, a small lane
was marked, just enough for parallel parking. Fewer parks again.
Then the department did away with the sheep because trees were being
planted and it was more convenient to do away with the sheep and the cattle
grid rather than fencing the new trees. The cost of maintenance increased.
f992325: the parking seen from the air with the access road
coming from the right and continuing along the cliff towards the Marine
Laboratory in the distance.
f015524: On busy days, people park along the access road,
far from the beach.
Rubbish Once there were rubbish bins for the convenience of the visitors but
these required upkeep and were inadequate during a few very busy weekends.
Now people take their rubbish home because the rubbish facilities have
been removed. Gradually people became used to the new regime and it appears
Toilet facilities Fresh running water is not available at Goat Island, and puritans of
the enivronment somehow resist it. So people can't wash their feet clear
from sand - not a problem because the grass will rub it off. As successful
as the taking home policy is for rubbish, it can't work for ablutions.
By the lower parking stands a small building with two equally small halves,
for the separate sexes. There is a communal space each for changing and
three toilets each for males and females.
The toilets are mounted on top of a concrete bunker and are called long-drops,
because that is what happens in 3 metres of free fall. On a regular basis
the concrete tank is sucked out by a septic tank contractor. There is no
water to wash hands. If a baby is in belly trouble, mother is in trouble
Not surprisingly, the Seafriends toilets about 1.5km up the road, bring
welcome relief. One of three is dedicated to invalids and mothers and it
is very much sought after with its running warm water.
Should a beach, however pristine have proper toilets with running water
and hygienic washing facilities?
new toilet block has been built as shown on the photo. The problem of running
water was solved by a bore and the sewage is treated by a local sewage
treatment plant, left of the photo. Council workers clean the toilets every
morning. There are waste bins for recyclable and nonrecyclable rubbish,
yet the change has left a notable impression.
Whereas previously the sewage
was slurped up by a sewage truck and discharged in a proper place somewhere
else, the present system eventually spills the processed water into the
local creek and the marine reserve. As a result, the creek's water has
become black and the water in front of the beach always murky. The new
system leaves a small influence on the environment for every visitor, whereas
the previous primitive system did not. As the reserve becomes more popular,
the environment recedes proportionally. As usual, humans destroy the places
Interpretation and kiosk Coastal marine reserves are places where people arrive by car and then
walk to the beach. The Goat Island marine reserve allows access to the
water only in one place, by Goat Island. Thus everyone funnels through
a narrow passage to the water. Here an information kiosk was placed with
hand-painted displays of the marine environment and its inhabitants. Although
most people walk just past, many study it carefully.
f015110: Nearly everyone visiting the marine reserve pass
along this track to the beach. The information kiosk and signs are placed
f015109: An official sign informs people of the reserve and
what activities are forbidden: fishing, taking of seafood and fishing from
"The Cape Rodney to Okakari Point Marine Reserve is a
unique protected area for you to enjoy. The reserve acts as a nursery for
commercial fish stocks and as a place to view some of the richest marine
life in the region.
EVERYTHING WITHIN THE RESERVE IS PROTECTED.
NOTHING MAY BE CAUGHT, DAMAGED OR REMOVED."
Buoys, moorings and markers It can be said that all the money in setting up and maintaining the
marine reserve has been spent on amenities to benefit visitors. Nothing
nice has been done for the marine environment. Divers have been left in
the cold too. It concerns the use and maintenance of markers and buoys.
When the reserve was opened, scientists had a system of small marker buoys
scattered around the reserve. These were strong enough to moor a small
craft like a dinghy. They gave researchers and divers a sense of place
in the vastness and monotony of the sea. It allowed one to return to favourite
dive sites and transects for monitoring and research. Then the little markers
gave way to decay and storms, but they were never replaced, even though
they appeared on the maps of the underwater marine reserve. Why?
Dive groups requested permission to restore these markers and to place
more permanent moorings on their preferred training grounds over sandy
areas at about 10m depth. Such moorings help reduce anchoring damage and
they provide a focus for safety in case of emergency. But permission was
The marine reserve has sensitive benthic communities of sponges, also
called sponge gardens. Although an anchor would not necessarily
cause grief damage, the anchor chain does when the wind or currents change
and the boat swings around, the chain scraping the bottom. In such areas
for the sake of protecting the sensitive habitat, strong moorings must
be provided to signal that anchoring is prohibited and to provide an alternative.
No such mooring buoys have been provided. Why?
The outer boundary of the marine reserve is almost impossible to locate,
even with the proper equipment such as radar and GPS. Boundary markers
should have been provided from the very beginning and maintained thereafter.
This has not been done. Why?
Passengers can embark boats only off the small beach, and only where
no boulders are found. It is a very restricted area where also many swimmers
begin their discoveries. A collision between propellers and swimmers is
thinkable but even so, is not of real concern because everyone is attentive
and boats make only slow progress while people have also become used to
the situation. However, the only glassbottom boat operator now claims a
large proportion of this scarce resource, forcing others to wait or take
A marine reserve with clear
water and good access is bound to attract many visitors.
The management plan must be
flexible and allow for gradual improvements as the need arises.
There will always be days that
the amenities can't meet demand, but people will cope.
The parking is best done as
angle parking. Parking layouts must allow for the maximum parking space.
A wide loop road must be available
for buses, and bus parkings clearly marked.
Offroad parking on unhardened
grass must be allowed in busy weekends.
Rather than using black tar
seal think about using perforated pavers that let grass through.
An information kiosk makes sense
only where access is funnelled through a narrow access way.
An information kiosk offers
opportunity to educate the public about the marine environment and issues
such as conservation, environmental degradation and how to behave inside
marine reserves. It should not be used for propaganda.
Make amenities as unobtrusive
as possible and flexible to cope with future extensions.
Local services should be used
for maintenance such as mowing, etc.
Taking rubbish home is an acceptable
Running water is necessary for
hygiene but costly to provide in the wilderness.
The amenities in the sea
and their maintenance should be part of the reserve's management plan
Stakeholders are prepared to
give a hand in improving amenities.
Boundary markers must be clear
and adequately spaced apart.
Mooring buoys should be provided
over sensitive areas and remote reefs.
Marker buoys must be maintained
for orientation purposes.
Local sewage treatment is not
the best solution.
The Leigh Marine Laboratory is located at the centre of the reserve, and
indeed this reserve has specifically been created to allow scientists undisturbed
access to the sea and protection of their experiments. But recently research
has become more and more politically motivated. Mostly funded by the Department
of Conservation who manages NZ's marine reserves, and whose interest it
is to prove that marine reserves are working, research has focused on real
and perceived benefits of marine reserves.
Science has made civilisation great, and where supported by science,
political decisions are better. While our use of the sea is intensifying
at the same time that the degrading influence of the land is accelerating,
research is needed to provide reliable knowledge for making long-lasting
environmental decisions. Unfortunately, several things have gone wrong,
as clearly set out in Myths(7) and Science
Exposed, and also reflected in the long
list of wrongs in the present politics regarding marine conservation.
This is not the place for dwelling on the shortcomings on research done.
Instead we'd like to stress the need for marine research wherever reserves
are created. This research has the following nature:
In order to judge the effectiveness of the reserve, some form of monitoring
must begin and be maintained in the long run, in order to gain insight
in the process of recovery and whether the reserve is meeting its objectives.
To show immediate benefits, it has become customary to monitor the commercially
fished species, which of course show the most dramatic rebound against
displaced fisheries outside. However, here in Leigh such attention has
detracted from monitoring other species. As a result the disappearance
of beds of bearded mussels (Modiolus aerolatus), horse mussels (Atrina
zelandica), bryozoa, sponges and many more have been left unnoticed.
Because coastal seas are deteriorating, some form of water quality testing
must be in place. In Leigh, scientists have not noticed the degradation
caused by deteriorating water quality from landbased erosion. They have
even attributed habitat changes inside the reserve to reserve-related benefits
rather than degradation (the kelpbed death, sea urchin mortalities, crayfish
walk-out and so on). No data on degradation is available.
Visitor surveys are necessary to respond to their expectations and for
the necessary feedback.
Surveys on social and business impacts due to management decisions and
benefitsor liabilities arising from marine reserves are also needed.
Habitat mapping is desirable where a reserve is highly successful.
f006102: a rocklobster tagged with an acoustic tag tied to
its back. Such tags are costly and difficult to attach. Fortunately this
rocklobster is protected allowing research to proceed unhindered. But it
loses the tag when moulting.
f016803: Due to dense plankton blooms, absorbing the sun
light, the kelpbed died over its entire range in the spring of 1992. By
January 1993 this was what it looked like. It caused major ecological reverberations
Every marine reserve must be
monitored regularly and over a long time period in order to register changes
caused either by recovery or by other external events.
Water quality must also be monitored.
Monitoring must include the
outcomes of management measures and whether the reserve is meeting its
Monitoring should include visitor
surveys and social and economic impacts.
Monitoring must not be obsessed
with commercially fished species, because these are not suitable as environmental
Politically motivated and funded
research may have unwanted effects on the quality of the research done
(political/ideological bias, discontinuity, snapshot approach).
An emergency budget must be
available to study unanticipated events.
Marine hot spots such as Goat
Island are unsuitable as baselines to compare other more normal areas with.
Marine scientists do not necessarily
notice the changes happening inside the marine reserve.
As part of their experiments, scientists often have to make changes to
the environment, like mounting exclusion cages, settlement tiles and so
on. All too often, however, these are not removed after the experiment
finished. Some end up half destroyed by the sea, littering the places where
they come to rest. Yet others remain a threat to visitors, such as steel
bolts protruding from the rocky shore where school children wander. For
a long time there have been clusters of cables littering the sea.
0712142: scientific pollution on the intertidal rocky shore:
sharp netted exclusion barriers and sharp stainless steel bolts, a threat
for children studying the rocky shore.
f009615: scientific exclusion experiments on the intertidal
rocky shore, not removed after use. When removed by fierce waves, their
sharp bolts remain a threat.
Marine reserves were established
for doing marine research, so this has priority over casual visitors.
Scientists need to be able to
place structures on the shore or under water and where these are placed
precisely depends on the shape of the shore and where research demands
- there is little alternative
As long as structures are clearly
visible, there exists no problem but invisible hazards such as bolts sticking
out from the rock, must be removed
After an experiment, all structures
must be removed.
Marine reserves in remote areas can practically be left unmanaged as long
as some supervision against poaching is present. But closer to human populations,
more management is needed. In the unlikely case of a clear-water marine
reserve with easy access near a large city, people will arrive in droves,
particularly on warm days in the summer holidays.
The international literature on marine reserves unanimously agrees on
forms of local management with participation of stakeholders and local
administrators. Most people (landlubbers) insufficiently understand the
special nature of the sea and how it should be managed accordingly. Thus
one of the largest impediments to success is central management by an ideologically
motivated government department, as is the case for Goat Island. These
people are so far removed from the sea and a reserve's daily needs, that
management causes more conflict than it resolves. It is also less cost-effective
while the benefits from maintenance and support do not flow into the local
Marine reserves must be managed
by the local community. They have the necessary local knowledge and presence
to cope with day to day needs. They know the sea. They know the area.
Worst management is by centralised
The management budget must be
surrendered totally to the local management committee.
Management must understand the
differences between land and sea.
Local services must be used
to flow resources back into the local community.
Education is always part of
An emergency budget must be
available to study unanticipated events.
The Department of Conservation is keen to introduce concessions in order
to exert further control over the use of the marine reserve. A concession
gives the right to conduct a certain activity. It provides an income for
the maintenance of the reserve and is in the order of 10% of revenue or
as much as 30-40% of gross profit. Operators add a concession fee to their
fares and pay DoC accordingly. Such cash generating systems are now in
use in National Parks but their value for the sea must be questioned.
1) The sea is a domain with free access and concessions would interfere
with this freedom.
2) The concession system is purported to enable DoC to control commercial
activity in marine reserves, but we have coped well for 27 years so far,
without any. It claims that non-commercial activity is free from concessions,
but in many cases, it is exactly this which must be controlled for the
sake of the environment. In other words, the concession system is not aimed
at controlling activities detrimental to the environment, but aimed only
at making money.
3) Since concessions are based on extracting money, (a large percentage
of profit), DoC is effectively having a finger in the honeypot. This means
that it can no longer be seen to be an independent and impartial manager.
As is known from many examples, DoC will be tempted to judge in favour
of the honey, rather than the environment. This is already becoming evident
in whale and dolphin watching.
4) Concessions can and will be allocated to the highest bidder. This
means that it favours large operators, to the detriment of smaller, often
local operators. They, in turn, use it to keep competitors out. The local
community suffers, as DoC creams off their potential profits. The commercial
'extraction' mushrooms as companies market their
in trying to maximise their profits. The environment suffers.
5) It is wrong to bring in a system that makes people who go about their
normal business, culpable or accountable to concessions. Dive operators
have been using marine reserves for training for as long as these exist,
indeed they have used the area long before. In fact, the Goat Island marine
reserve was somehow taken off them. They do not go there for seeing fishes,
but they use the shelter and clear waters around Goat Island for training
and tests. At the same time, they introduce novice divers to the marine
conservation concept. To drive them away, or to subject them to concessions
for the simple reason that they are 'commercial' is anathema to the freedom
every New Zealander is born with.
Marine reserves can be managed
well without concessions. Indeed it could be argued that the desire for
concessions stems from poor and ineffectual management.
The sea is a place of freedom
with responsibility where concessions would interfere unduly.
Most of the use inside marine
reserves is customary use, even though it may be commercial.
Education should not be subjected
to concessions, even though education may be a commercial activity. Diving,
adventure training and rocky shore studies are all forms of education.
Concessions make the Department
of Conservation a participant in the commercial exploitation of natural
Concessions lead to obligations
- who pays, says. The line between conservation and exploitation becomes
Concessions lead to monopolies
extortion of the public.
Glass bottom boat
Because they attract visitors, marine reserves also attract commercial
activity such as glass bottom boats. Often these are encouraged by management
in order to enhance the popularity of the marine reserve. However, over
time, as the commercial enterprise grows, conflicts with other activities
arise. The glass bottom boat is taken as an example but please note that
the current operator is aware of possible conflicts and tries hard to avoid
The early version of the glass bottom boat for which permission was
given to operate inside the marine reserve, was a small tub that could
seat some 20-30 people around a central window. It was small enough to
take advantage of small beaches while hardly interfering with swimmers
and snorkellers. Then suddenly a much larger model appeared, this time
large enough to do a bus load of passengers at once. Passengers are now
seated around two windows. Soon complaints from other beach users began
the boat claims a space on the beach in the water and on the dry beach
for a small 'office' consisting of no more than a chair and table. But
there are queues of people waiting for the next trip and people must stay
clear from the boat.
the boat's propellers stir up a lot of silt from the bottom, silt that
wafts into the areas favoured for snorkelling, thereby reducing visibility
whereas the small boat didn't need sound amplification, now the sound of
the narrative can be heard from afar.
snorkellers and swimmers feel threatened in the water when the boat comes
nearby, as its two propellers are not shrouded for protection.
the boat often drives over SCUBA divers to give the passengers a view of
the divers below. This is not always appreciated as one can imagine.
the business advertises heavily to attract more people to the beach. As
a result, often most of the people on the beach are for the glassbottom
boat, as are also most of the parking slots. This interferes with those
who come for beach fun, diving and swimming. Clearly a conflict of interests
the business pays no rates, does not have its own toilets and parking spaces,
but is entirely supported by public amenities. It enjoys an unfair advantage
over nearby businesses.
Please note that the glassbottom boat is taken as an example to illustrate
that what begins small as a good idea, may become a bad idea once it grows
under the influence of commercial motives.
f015822: the first glassbottom boat was small enough to take
advantage of small beaches but it had to do a bus load in two trips.
0901023: the latest glassbottom boat can take a busload of
passengers at once. It can't help interfering with traditional activities.
Reserve management must be aware
that a small commercial enterprise will eventually grow larger until it
is too large for its own good. Size matters.
Heavy commercial advertising
and marketing draw an ever larger stream of people to the beach for nothing
The beach becomes essentially
a transit terminal for the commercial enterprise.
The influx of such targeted
customers interferes with the traditional use of the beach and sea by occupying
beach space, parking lots and more.
A line may need to be drawn
between motorised tourism and self-propelled tourism, as the two are in
conflict with one another.
Management must distinguish
between commercial activities that support traditional use and those that
A motorised unit can be a nuisance
and an eyesore, as well as a threat to others.
A single operator occupies a
monopoly position without the necessary competition to keep prices honest.
Net public benefit must be weighed
against liabilities at all stages of growth.
The University of Auckland plans to establish a public
"educational outreach centre" as part of extensions to the Leigh Marine
Laboratory, now renamed the South Pacific Centre for Marine Studies (SPCMS).
The new centre is "for visitors to the area and school children in Auckland
and Northland to better understand the marine environment". However, this
function has for 16 years been fulfilled by the Seafriends Marine Conservation
and Education Centre located at the Goat Island Road, a mere 1km from the
sea and the Marine Laboratory. So why would the New Zealand Government
attempt to kill an established private institute with a long track record
of excellence in marine education for the public?
Read what the Marine Laboratory expansion
entails and the questionable thinking behind it.
While a Marine Laboratory is
necessarily located on the coast and central to a marine reserve, it must
nonetheless be viewed as another commercial activity that needs to be managed
for the public good and for the good of the marine reserve.
Extending a marine laboratory
is no different from that of extending the size of a glass bottom boat
or that of any other commercial activity on or next to the marine reserve.
What was good while small, becomes bad when big.
Extending a marine laboratory
with activities that are not its core business, must therefore be condemned.
A publicly funded institution
should not compete with a commercial enterprise which makes ends meet.
It is bad practice to draw more
business to a location that is already choked by limited parking space,
turning for buses, limited sewage treatment and so on, particularly when
that business is not needed or can be located elsewhere.
The local community must be
consulted in a manner that it can have a say and can veto the plan.
All plans including operational
budgets, must be disclosed fully without hidden agendas. It is a principle
of participative democracy.