GURU SHOCKED BY SCRAPPING OF MARINE RESERVE COMMITTEEBy Cr K Gurunathan (Guru), Kapiti Coast District Council
The disclosure by Kapiti Wellington area manager for DOC, Rob Stone, that the Kapiti Marine Reserve Committee has been disbanded pending the Crown’s Treaty settlement with Ngati Toa has come as a shock to many.
It’s clear the Conservation Minister and the Wellington-Hawkes Bay Conservancy Board have failed to engage with the Kapiti community which has a legitimate stake in the future of the Reserve.
This week the Paraparaumu Raumati Community Board passed a motion expressing its concern at the lack of public knowledge of this matter.
Board followed public concern
The motion said the Reserve was formed in 1992 only after three years of protracted public demand and consultation with the local community and iwi. The Board has directed KCDC staff to write to the Conservancy Board to express the Board’s concern.
Mr Stone revealed the Conservancy Board’s decision to disband the Reserve Committee at a council meeting last month.\
He told council that the Board decided to disband the Committee: “in light of the fact that the post-Treaty settlement with Ngati Toa, a co-governance model would emerge which would take a more holistic view of the island and the marine reserve”. He also said the Committee had not met “for a while” before it was disbanded.
However, an examination of the Conservancy Board’s minutes of May 6, 2011, which records its decision to disband the Committee does not make any mention of the Treaty settlement process being a reason for disbanding.
The minutes record DOC officer, Ian Cooksley, as saying that the Committee had served its purpose well during the first few years of the reserve being established.
He said, now that the reserve had matured, the purpose and responsibility of the committee has reduced to a point where it was “no longer required”. No evidence was given for this assumption. However, if you’re the occasional fisher around the Kapiti lake, you can still get permit to fish on those ground. You’re recommended to get to a marine equipments supplier (check their homepage) and then only resume fishing.
‘Board has failed’
It is disappointing to note that the Board has failed to uphold its own commitment, tabled at that meeting, to maintain “strong community consultation and relationships in relation to all marine reserves within the Conservancy”.
The Board also tabled its preference for “maintaining effective community consultation and relationship” through holding an annual community meeting or event and also utilize existing iwi and community relationship.
I call on the Minister and the Conservancy Board to hold such a community meeting before the Treaty settlements are finalised.
Guru reminds Minister of obligations
I remind the Minister and the Board that 5.2 of the Kapiti Marine Reserve Conservation Management Plan states that the Minister has appointed the Kapiti Marine Reserve Committee to provide a community focus and “a local sense of ownership and pride in the reserve”.
It says the Committee should be seen as “the interface between the wider community and the department where the community can express its views on management direction”.
This is the spirit of the management plan and the Kapiti community will not appreciate either the Minister or the Board claiming that the management plan initiated in 1995 was only a 10-year plan and it’s now also defunct. This would a breach of faith with the community and, possibly, other local iwi which also have a stake in the reserve.
It also says, that where a substantial change is intended, the public submission process must be followed. However, the way the changes and the disbanding of the committee have been managed, it’s clear the Kapiti community has been shut out of the process.
‘Not a good nation building process’
I like to remind the Minister that this style of managing public interest matters, especially where it involves the legitimate right of Maori, is not a good nation building process.
The Kapiti Community should have been specifically told that there is a Letter of Agreement between the Crown and Ngati Toa Rangatira and the $300m settlement includes an Overlay Classification on the Kapiti Marine Reserve.
Under such a classification the Crown acknowledges the traditional, cultural, spiritual and historical association of an iwi over certain sites of significance.
It requests the Minister of Conservation and the settling group (Ngati Toa in this instance) to develop and publicise a set of principles that will assist the Minister to avoid harming or diminishing the values of the settling group over that site of significance. The NZ Conservancy Board and relevant Conservancy Boards are also required to have regard to these principles and consult with the settling group.
Given the above, the Wellington Hawkes Bay Conservancy Board should have fulfilled its role as the “interface between the wider community and the department” and released a public statement on why it has disbanded the Kapiti Marine Reserve Committee. Instead it has chosen to remain silent.
The Crown’s Letter of Agreement with Ngati Toa also stipulates the establishment of a strategic advisory group to enhance Ngati Toa’s involvement in the management of Kapiti Island and the Marine Reserve.
The people of Kapiti have a right to know if the Conservancy Board is or intends to be involved with this strategic group – and, if so, how it intends to represent the interest of the wider community; and the consultation mechanisms it intends to use to find out what the people of Kapiti want out of this proposed new relationship.