by Gareth Hughes
Last weekend I visited the Motu Manawa Marine Reserve as part of Sea Week. I was there to help Forest and Bird and Friends of the Whau with a boat based clean up of the marine reserve.
As you can see from the photo below we collected a lot of rubbish – especially given that we only had 3 to 4 boats working for a few hours. It was a real eye opener to visit this beautiful part of Auckland and to see how badly polluted it is.
Motu Manawa is the only marine reserve within the Auckland urban area. It is also the only marine reserve in New Zealand (I believe) that has a motorway actually running through it.
You can read more about the rare species living in the Motu Manawa Marine reserve on Forest and Bird’s website. Forest and Bird and other groups have done and continue to do great work there with pest-trapping and weed control.
However, the reserve has serious problems. First, although it’s easily visible from State Highway 16 (SH16) the reserve is little known and very hard to access without wading through deep mud. Second, the silt in the reserve which is next to Rosebank Peninsula has been heavily contaminated with pollutants. These may have partly come from industrial facilities on the Rosebank Peninsula or run off from SH16. Finally, the reserve is currently not getting a regular tidal flow because the culvert which runs into it under SH16 and Rosebank Road is partially blocked.
If all this wasn’t enough to deal with, the reserve is also under threat from the proposed widening of SH16.
This $800 million project (which will do little to reduce traffic congestion due to induced traffic) involves widening SH16 from 6 to 8 or 9 lanes.
Obviously, since the motorway runs through the marine reserve, widening it will reduce the size of the marine reserve. There will also be other detrimental effects – for example, the transport agency are planning to completely block the culvert under SH16 at Rosebank Road. This will mean the marine reserve will receive even less tidal flow which could endanger some of the species living there.
Under the Marine Reserves Act of 1971 the Minister of Conservation has to give consent to the New Zealand Transport Agency to do any public works within the marine reserve. Kate Wilkinson should use this opportunity to negotiate for improvements to the marine reserve and not just be cowed by her Cabinet colleagues.
For example, Forest and Bird have suggested that she could ask for better access for the public to the marine reserve (through a walkway) or for the transport agency to help cover the cost of increasing the size of the marine reserve elsewhere (such as off the coast of the Te Atatu Peninsula). She could also ask for a better culvert to help irrigate the reserve more fully or more research into just how badly polluted the silt next to Rosebank Peninsula is and whether it would be possible to get rid of some of the toxic contaminants.
Sadly, however, so far her answers to our written questions suggest she isn’t planning to do any of that.
So whilst the oceans globally are in crisis and scientists are calling for 40% of the world’s waters to be set aside in marine reserves, our Conservation Minister stands by idly while new motorways eat into our already pitifully small amount of marine reserve.