There is no public mandate for the Hauraki Gulf Forum to push ahead with proposals that would change the way the treasured Gulf is governed and managed, says Gulf Users Group spokesman Lee Short.
Yesterday, the Hauraki Gulf Forum voted 11-7 in favour of changing its composition to that of a 50:50 co-governance authority with mana whenua and ‘others’. It is also proposing to develop its own statutory plans, that could prevail over council policies and central government decision-making, for all matters in respect of the Gulf.
“We are deeply disappointed in this decision made by the Forum. There was no public consultation beforehand, and I believe their decision is not in the best interest of Gulf users,” Mr Short says. “Nor is there an explanation as to how the proposed changes will be better for the Gulf”.
“As this decision potentially has huge ramifications, we are calling for a referendum on the issue at the local body council elections later this year,” he says.
“Having presented to the Forum, I know that members are divided on their views of this issue,” Mr Short says. The majority of elected representatives voted against the proposal.
“Our petition gathered nearly 15,000 signatures in just three weeks. We know there is widespread concern about the proposals so it’s important that members of the Forum take stock and be more open about the implications of what they are proposing.
“We also strongly oppose any proposals relating to strengthening the functions and powers of the Forum while at the same time placing this power in the hands of an undemocratic body with greatly reduced elected representation and accountability to the vast majority of the people of the region”.
“We want to ensure that all decisions on the Gulf remain fair, transparent and democratic.”
Mr Short says the Group supports the intention to improve the health of the Hauraki Gulf.
He says they will continue opposing the proposals in their current form and lobby to ensure the Forum majority stays in the hands of elected representatives. “We will regroup and plan our next course of action, as we are certainly not giving up.”
The Hauraki Gulf Forum was established under the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act and the proposals will require Government support for legislative change.