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Government ignores 84% of people who want the Hauraki Gulf seafloor protected

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

The Endangered Species Foundation today voiced strong concerns around the proposed plans to continue bottom trawling and sand mining the Hauraki Gulf in the new plan “Revitalising the Gulf’ by the Department of Conservation and Ministry of Fisheries.

“We were shocked to learn of these proposals to continue mining and bottom trawling the Hauraki Gulf,” said Endangered Species Foundation General Manager, Natalie Jessup. “It’s like we’re stuck in the 1980’s."
“The Hauraki Gulf is home to the endangered Bryde’s Whale, the endangered tara iti, NZ fairy tern, and countless other species which all depend on healthy ecosystems for their survival. We need to change our ways to ensure all biodiversity and future generations have a chance of survival.”

ESF compares the impact of sandmining, seabed bottom trawling and Danish seining to the destruction of 190 million years of kauri forests over a period of a few decades to the benefit of a very few and the long-term damage to the environment and the people of Aotearoa New Zealand.

“Not only is New Zealand the last country continuing to bottom trawl the high seas of our Pacific Ocean, we are also recklessly doing this in our own back yard,” says Jessup.

Individual members of the public have seen the degradation that has occurred over the years and on 19 November 2021, a Horizon Research poll, commissioned by the Hauraki Gulf Forum, showed that;

84% of the public who live in the vicinity of the Hauraki Gulf oppose mobile bottom contact fishing to continue due to the destructive impact it has on marine species and ecosystems on the seafloor.

These proposals will allow also continued sand mining in the Mangawhai Pakiri area and according to Professor Mike Hilton, these processes at best leave a ‘ploughed paddock’ in their wake, at worst a desert where nothing can live or grow, and many hundreds of years will be needed to recover if they recover at all.

A great deal of damage has already occurred to the Hauraki Gulf through sandmining, seabed bottom trawling and Danish Seining. Sand mining has been occurring for over 70 years, causing huge loss of biodiversity in the area including species of fish, crayfish, scallops and horse mussels to name a few. This not only impacted on the ability of sea birds to source food for themselves and their chicks but also local iwi’s traditional rights to source kaimoana in the area.

There are significant impacts from the practices of Danish seining, bottom trawling and suction hopper dredges, which plough the seabed, smash corral, destroy mussel beds and catch non-target species as well as smothering marine plants and wildlife. As well as this physical damage there are negatives effects on marine species from noise pollution and sediment plumes.

Regardless of this damage, sand mining is allowed to continue relentlessly off the coast of Mangawhai and Pakiri despite these beaches being at a point of near collapse:

“Sand mining was stopped off Mt Maunganui Beach in 1976. Today the Mount has a well-formed beach. Mangawhai and Pakiri Beaches ecosystems are presently revealing increasing symptoms of unsustainable and induced sand budget deficits; the protracted long-term offshore dredging activities are now impacting and damaging existing back-beach and foredune zones”.
Gregory Jenks, 25 years’ experience in marine research and consulting

The Endangered Species Foundation’s view is that threatened, at risk and endangered marine life and birds have been negatively impacted by the sand mining and seabed bottom trawling particularly at Mangawhai and Pakiri. Over twenty species of bird in this area are declining or critical, most obviously and critically the tara iti, NZ fairy tern. The tara iti is listed as “nationally critical” which is the highest threat ranking for any endangered species. With only 10 breeding pairs left it is New Zealand’s rarest endemic breeding bird with a current population of just 37 birds.

According to an expert on birds, Ian Southey the degradation of fairy tern nesting areas and feeding areas caused by the sand mining could lead to their functional extinction in the region.

“Beach narrowing, due to loss of sand, forces the terns to nest closer to the sea, putting their eggs at risk during storms and king tides,” Ian Southey MSc (Hons), bird expert.

Image: Jacob Ball, DOC

The Endangered Species Foundation is calling on an end to seabed mining and bottom trawling in the Hauraki Gulf, and are calling for the Pakiri / Mangawhai area to be designated as a High Protection Area.

Given the rampant desecration and destruction of the sea floor area in Pakiri / Mangawhai a High Protection Area is urgently needed to:

  • maintain, restore and protect ecologically important habitats

  • protect seafloor habitats and communities susceptible to damage from activities such as fishing (particularly dredging, bottom trawling and Danish seining), sand extraction and mining.

On an ongoing and longer-term basis, the management to enable restoration of the mauri and mana of the Pakiri / Mangawhai area, and any activity that takes place, needs to be done in partnership and collaboration with Ngāti Manuhiri, who are the recognised tāngata whenua of this area. We need to enable this iwi to lead so that collectively we can embrace the concepts and values of te Ao Māori and enable true kaitiakitanga for this rohe.

ESF welcomes the High Protection Area proposals which protect and enhance marine habitats and ecosystems while providing for the customary practices of mana whenua.

Submissions in support of more marine protections for the Hauraki Gulf can be emailed to before 5pm, 28 October.

Media enquiries

Endangered Species Foundation, General Manager – Natalie Jessup P: 022 121 5913 E:

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