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Recreational Fishing Park for the Gulf a good idea?

Read a Dialogue piece in today’s NZ Herald by Sue, Rod and Zoe Neureuter, the family who acts as guardians of the Noises Islands. Sue Neureuter’s personal Story of the Gulf features in The Story of the Hauraki Gulf.

“Creating a fishing park in a region in such alarming decline brings division where the opposite is required write Sue, Rod and Zoe Neureuter.”

Sue Neureuter on her boat at the Noises Islands
Sue Neureuter on her boat at the Noises Islands.

Prospective locations for the Auckland CBD

The location and naming of Auckland was determined by Irish sailor Captain William Hobson. Hobson had arrived in New Zealand as Lieutenant-Governor on 29 January 1840 aboard the HMS Herald. After the successful signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in the Bay of Islands on 6 February, Hobson set about determining the location for the new capital of the colony.

On visiting the Waitematā harbour on the invitation of Ngāti Whatua, Hobson was very taken with a prospective location in the upper harbour in the vicinity of what is now called Hobsonville. But he suffered a crippling stroke, and returned to the Bay of Islands, before confirming a location for the capital.

Vessels moored near Herald Island
Hobson was very enamoured with the upper Waitematā harbour as the location for New Zealand’s first capital, with its sheltered deep water. The area was subsequently named Hobsonville. Herald Island (shown on the left of this image) was named after the vessel on which Hobson visited the area, the HMS Herald.

Surveyor-General Felton Mathew was then instructed by Hobson to undertake another voyage to investigate prospective locations. Mathew was very enamoured with the Panmure Basin as the location for the new capital due to the low-lying and fertile volcanic soil, an abundance of freshwater draining from Maungarei (Mount Wellington), and proximity to the Manukau Harbour portage.

Panmure Basin Auckland
The Panmure Basin was another prospective location for the Auckland CBD due to its fertile, undulating land and ample freshwater.

When Hobson returned to the Waitematā on 6 July 1840 Hobson revisited the Hobsonville and Panmure locations but concluded that neither were suitable. The land at Hobsonville had poor fertility (evidenced by the stunted ferns growing in the area), little drainage and no obvious water supply. There was also very shallow water near the shore. The one significant downside for the Panmure option was the sand bar across the mouth of the Tāmaki River which made access by large vessels difficult.

The Watchman or Sentinal Island Herne Bay
It was whilst anchored near Watchman Island (the Sentinal) that Hobson’s doctor noted the promising look of the land on the southern shore near Herne Bay. This lead to further investigation and the ultimate establishment of Auckland on the Tāmaki isthmus on 18 September 1840.

Whilst the HMS Herald was anchored in the vicinity of Herne Bay near Watchman Island, Hobson’s physician Dr Johnson commented on the inviting appearance of the land on the southern shore. After closer investigation it was determined that the land looked promising and there was a deep anchorage close by. Hobson named the new settlement Auckland in honour of his benefactor Lord Auckland who had given Hobson command of a ship after six years of being stranded ashore.

Longline Fishing in the Gulf

Longlining was introduced into the Hauraki Gulf as a method of commercial fishing in 1912. It replaced the use of single baited hooks and immediately increased catches. Longling involves setting a main line, with numerous branches lines or snoods connected to it, each containing a baited hook. Each line can hold thousands of hooks. The method was quickly adopted and is still widely used in the Hauraki Gulf. It is a labour intensive, hands-on commercial fishing method, which is targeted and can produce very high quality fish.

Longline gear
Longlining involves the use of one main line (as shown on the drum here) to which hundreds of small branch lines with hooks are attached.
longline baiting the hooks
Hooks are pre-baited and stored on boards prior to being hooked onto the longline as it runs out from the boat.

In the early 1980s a lucrative market for fresh ‘iki jime’ snapper opened up in Japan. This involved spiking the fish in the brain after capture to kill it instantly, and then putting the fish into an ice slurry to rapidly cool its temperature. This resulted in a high quality fish which fetched premium prices. Longline fishermen in the Gulf rapidly adopted the new methods, initially pioneered by Leigh Fisheries.

Longline bringing in the line
Longlining involves retrieving each fish individually. This means that a higher quality of fish can be harvested in comparison to bulk methods such as trawling and Danish seining.
Longline spiking the fish
Longline snapper are spiked in the brain immediately after capture to retain quality. Shown here is a fishermen about to use a spike on a snapper.
longline snapper in slurry
Once released from the line, the snapper are placed into an ice slurry which quickly reduces their temperature also helping to retain quality.

The fish are transported back to port on the same day, sent to the factory for packing and then quickly flown out to high value markets around the world including Australia, the USA and Europe.

Longline vessel unloading a catch at Leigh
Leigh Harbour is still a popular port for longline fishing boats. Shown here is a vessel unloading its catch into a truck for transport to the Leigh Fisheries factory in Leigh.

“Thanks to Dave Moore from Wildfish and the skipper and crew of Coral V for taking me out on a great long lining trip. I was very impressed by how hard you guys worked.”

Hauraki Gulf’s special whales

A group of Bryde’s whales have chosen the Hauraki Gulf as a place to live all year round and as somewhere to bring up their calves. This is unusual for a whale species, as most migrate from the tropics to the polar regions each year. We are very lucky to have a population of whales right on Auckland’s doorstep and we need to look after them.

View this fantastic drone video of the Bryde’s whales in the Gulf taken by AUT scientists.

Bryde’s whales are small baleen whales that can often be seen feeding amongst seabirds and dolphins in large ‘boil ups’ of fish in the Hauraki Gulf. The population is considered to be threatened, being listed by the Department of Conservation as “nationally critical”.

The whales used to be hunted, with 19 animals being taken at the whaling station at Whangaparapara, Great Barrier Island during the 1960s. However, Bryde’s whales do not produce much oil so they were not targeted in the same way that humpback whales were.

Old Whangaparapara Whaling Station
19 Bryde’s whales were taken at the Whangaparapara whaling station on Great Barrier Island during the 1960s. The remains of the old whaling station, shown here, can still be seen in the harbour.

The biggest risk the whales now face is being hit by the large ships that transit the Gulf to enter the Port of Auckland. The shipping lanes cut right across the areas where the whales spend much of their time, and if they are hit by the large hulls travelling at high speed, the whales have little chance of surviving. A total of 18 whales are known to have died from ship strike in the Hauraki Gulf since 1996.

Container ship leaving the Port of Auckland
Large ships are a risk to whales if they travel at fast speeds transiting through the Hauraki Gulf. If the ships slow down to 10 knots or less that risk is significantly reduced.

Responding to this issue, in 2013, Ports of Auckland issued a voluntary protocol that advised ships to reduce speed, where possible, when transiting through the Gulf. At speeds of 10 knots or less there is a much higher chance that the whales will survive a collision. Since the release of the protocol, speeds have been reducing and are now on average less than 11 knots. There has only been one recorded whale death from ship strike, on 12 September 2014, since the protocol was put in place.

Bryde's whale Transit Protocol page 1 Bryde's whale Transit Protocol page 2

Origin of the name Coromandel

Coromandel harbour was named after the visit of the HMS Coromandel to the harbour in June 1820. The entire peninsula now also bears the vessel’s name. The name itself originates from India, where the Coromandel was originally built, and refers to the Indian south-eastern coast.

Coromandel harbour showing oyster farms
Coromandel Harbour looking towards Whanganui Island and showing an oyster farm and moored boats.

Hauraki Gulf Seabird Hotspot

The Hauraki Gulf has an extraordinary wealth of seabirds, supported by its productive marine area, diverse habitats and numerous predator free islands. Over 80 species have been seen in the region which comprises 20 per cent of the world’s total species. Of these at least 27 species breed in the wider Hauraki Gulf region.

Group of fleshfooted shearwaters off teh Mokohinaus
Group of flesh footer shearwaters off the Mokohinau Islands in the Hauraki Gulf

Seabirds spend most of their lives at sea; they only come to land to breed. Although many of the birds travel enormous distances, some to the north and eastern Pacific – to waters off Japan, Hawaii, California and Ecuador – others venturing down to the Polar Front, they return each year to breed in burrows on the Gulf’s islands.

Maria Island the Noises
Maria Island in the Noises Group is one of the many islands within the Hauraki Gulf where seabirds breed.

Historically, seabirds would have also bred on New Zealand’s mainland, but the destruction of habitats and predation by introduced animals have left the remnant populations mostly on islands. Where once seabirds brought fertility to soils, adding nutrients through the decomposition of guano and dead eggs, chicks and adults, farmers now spread fertiliser, much of it derived from seabird islands elsewhere in the Pacific.

Birders at the Mokohinau Islands
Overseas birders out at the Mokohinau Islands to view the Hauraki Gulf’s very special seabird populations.

The Hauraki Gulf’s rich seabird population attracts birders from all over the world. Threats to the seabirds include longline fishing hooks (the birds dive on the bait and get caught on the hooks), predators at breeding sites and lack of food through overfishing and depletion of fish stocks, especially bait fish.

Setting a tori line on a long line fishing boat
A longline fishing boat with a tori line set out the back at dawn to avoid seabird capture on the hooks as they are set.

Commercial fishers are adopting seabird friendly fishing methods to avoid seabird bycatch which include setting their lines at night, weighting the lines so they sink quickly and running tori lines over the top of the long line.

 

Hauraki Gulf Māori place names

Many of the Māori names for the islands and waterways of the Hauraki Gulf are wonderfully descriptive of the natural environment. Here are a few.

Waitematā Harbour: Water as smooth as obsidian

Waitemata harbour from Point Chevalier
Waitematā Harbour from Point Chevalier looking towards the North Shore.

Pakatoa Island: Ebb and flow of the tide

Pakatoa Island showing old holiday resort
Pakatoa Island showing old holiday resort.

Rātōroa [Rotoroa] Island: Prolonged sunset

Rotoroa Island from the air
Rotoroa Island from the air showing the restoration work.

Pō-nui Island: Great extended night

Ponui Island homestead Oranga bay
Homstead at Oranga bay on Ponui Island

Rangitoto: Blood reddened sky

Sunset looking out to Rangitoto Island from Omana Beach
Rangitoto viewed from Ōmana Beach, Maraetai at sunset.

Tiritiri-o-Matangi: Sanctified heaven of fragrant breezes

Hobbs Beach Tiritiri Matangi
People enjoying Hobbs Beach Tiritiri Matangi Island

‘Goat Island’ Marine Reserve World First

The marine reserve surrounding Goat Island near Leigh, called the Cape Rodney-Ōkakari Point Marine Reserve, was the first no-take marine reserve in the Hauraki Gulf, in New Zealand and probably in the world. It was established in 1975 after a long campaign by scientists at the Leigh marine laboratory.

The idea was first mooted in 1965 by Professor Valentine Chapman who suggested that the scientists needed a place where their scientific equipment was protected and where the fish weren’t eaten.

Leigh marine reserve from teh north
Goat Island was chosen as the site for the first marine in reserve in the Hauraki Gulf in 1975.

Chapman wrote to the then Marine Department suggesting that a marine reserve should be established. But they showed no interest in taking action on the basis that there was no legislation on the statute books enabling government to establish a reserve in the sea.

Leigh glass bottom boat
The marine reserve at Leigh attracts thousands of visitors each year and supports local business such as the glass bottom boat.

But Chapman wasn’t put off. He simply escalated the issue. He wrote to the Marine Department every month and obtained support from Ngāti Manuhiri, the Marine Sciences Association and the New Zealand Underwater Association. He also held public meetings and addressed school groups. In the end the government passed the Marine Reserves Act 1971 and created the new reserve in 1975.

The marine reserve has been an outstanding success. The abundance of fish has increased substantially and hundreds of thousands of visitors visit each year. It is a place where parents can take their children to see underwater life. It is also a great tourist attraction for visitors to New Zealand.

Bill Ballantine
The late Bill Ballantine was a fearless promoter of marine protection and he was the first Director of the Leigh Marine Laboratory.

The reserve has served as inspiration for other marine reserves around the Gulf, throughout the country and overseas. The late Bill Ballantine was a strong advocate for the reserve and he was the driving force behind the Leigh Marine Laboratory for many years.

 

 

Seachange Tai Timu Tai Pari

The Seachange Tai Timu Tai Pari initiative is in the process of preparing a marine spatial plan for the Hauraki Gulf. The plan is being developed by a Stakeholder Working Group which has been tasked with developing ‘a spatial plan that will achieve a Hauraki Gulf that is vibrant with life and healthy mauri, is increasingly productive and supports healthy and prosperous communities.’

Fixing the Gulf, Boating NZ, 27 July 2016

Listen to author and SWG member Raewyn Peart talk about Seachange

Nature’ article identifies marine spatial planning as a way of bringing fishers and conservationists together to address ecosystem issues.

The Group is focused on identifying ways, to turn around the degradation that has happened over the last century or so, within the next generation. It is committed to achieving this through adopting a holistic approach to solutions based on mātauranga Māori as well as western science.

Seachange Haruaki Plains wide
Participants in Seachange Tai Timu Tai Pari have gone out into the field to investigate the drivers of ecological decline in the Hauraki Gulf. Shown here is a trip to the Hauraki Plains to look at the drainage infrastructure.

The Seachange process is being sponsored by the Auckland Council, Waikato Regional Council, Department of Conservation and Ministry for Primary Industries. It is expected that these organisations will implement the marine spatial plan.

Seachange members visiting the Whangapoua forest
Seachange participants visited the Whangapoua Forest on the Coromandel Peninsula to look at management approaches to reducing sediment runoff as a result of forestry harvesting and earthworks.

The plan is scheduled to be completed later in 2016. The Story of the Hauraki Gulf has been written to help support the implementation of the spatial plan through communicating the issues to a broader audience.

Cruising the Gulf

Many people started cruising the Hauraki Gulf in their homebuilt vessels after World War Two. The annual summer cruise became a feature of any families’ lives. Conditions on board were primitive. There was generally no standing headroom,the toilet consisted of a bucket and lighting was by a kerosene lantern. But the joy of cruising the islands more than made up for any lack of luxury.

Trimaran at Maraetai Beach
Small trimaran off Maraetai Beach getting ready to depart on the annual summer cruise during the mid 1970s. Note the lack of headroom and any toilet or galley facilities for the crew of 6 people.

The idea of building one’s own cruising boat had been popularised in the 1930s by adventurer Johnny Wray who, after losing his job in the depression, built his own boat out of scavenged materials. He used kauri logs washed up beaches for timber and fencing wire dipped in tar scraped off the road to staple the planks together. Wray sailed around the Gulf and across to the Pacific Islands. His boat Ngataki is still sailing in the Gulf, having being restored by the TIno Rawa Trust.

Boat designers Richard Hartley and Alan Wright produced boat building plans for the home builder with detailed instructions and full-sized patterns which could be cut out. Richard Hartley designed the hugely popular Hartley 16 foot trailer sailer which was promoted as being ‘For the man with limited means, who wants a boat for day-sailing and fishing with a guarantee of being home on time, this is the boat.’ 

Alan Wright Variant bilge keeled yacht at Waiheke
Alan Wright’s designs were very popular with the homebuilder including the Variant shown here beached at Waiheke Island. Wright offered plans for several variations of the boat including different keels and cabin tops which is why he called it the Variant.

Cruising is still a hugely popular activity on the Hauraki Gulf given the many sheltered bays and beautiful islands which can be visited.

Yachts anchored in West Bay Rakino Island
Cruising boats anchored off West Bay at Rakino Island.