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'Saving Our Treasured Waters' - Hauraki Gulf Regeneration Fund Event

Auckland Foundation’s OBC luncheon aimed to inspire action on ‘Saving our Treasured Waters’.

Words by Peter Miles


Around 100 people gathered for lunch in the OBC clubrooms on June 22. It happened to be Mayor Phil Goff’s birthday, but that wasn’t the occasion. This was a gathering of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park experts, environmentalists and concerned citizens of Tāmaki Makaurau. The topic: Saving our Treasured Waters.


Organised by Auckland Foundation to promote the purpose behind its Hauraki Gulf Regeneration Fund, the event was both a top-to-bottom deep dive into the plight of the Hauraki Gulf from a scientific, social and cultural point of view, and a solid call to action - act now and help reverse the decline.


The session was opened by Tom Irvine, from Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, with karakia and mini whakatau. Commodore Bill Berry proffered a welcome from the club and then spoke about the OBC’s history and on-going commitment to environmental initiatives, with the restoration of Motuihe, support of mussel restoration (Revive Our Gulf), Hobson Bay clean-ups and Kai Ika. Mayor Phil Goff spoke about what the Hauraki Gulf meant to Aucklanders. He referred to his childhood holidays at Kawakawa Bay and the sense that clean, swimmable beaches and a pristine marine environment were considered a birth-right.

Peter Salmon QC, Patron of the OBC, shared his memories of the gulf in the ’50s and ’60s and how we failed to understand the impacts we were having on the marine environment. He reminded everyone that Mansion House Bay in Kawau was dredged at one point because so many beer bottles lay on the seafloor that nobody could get a secure anchorage.


A mana whenua perspective was provided by Moana Tamaariki-Pohe (Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, Waiohua and Ngāi Tai), a leading advocate for the Hauraki Gulf. Moana and her whānau have been instrumental in improving the state of ÅŒkahu Bay, including the work in mussel bed restoration. She talked about the intergenerational connection she feels to ÅŒkahu Bay and what improving the mauri (life essence) of the bay means to the hapū/whānau. “Everyone doing a little something somewhere they love will collectively contribute to the mauri of Tikapa Moana, Te Moananui ā-Toi, the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park”.


Clarke Gayford told the assembled crowd that while he “could tell some great fish stories, they looked like a crowd that could handle harsh news”. He went on to speak of the tyranny of the “moving baseline”, the idea that our definition of abundance is limited to the short history of, at most, two or three generations, when in fact, if you reach much further back in time and compare, things are in a very sad state. Seals and whales were common in the Waitematā, you could wade out and grab crayfish by hand in many places around the Hauraki Gulf; and our native rock oyster has been completely displaced by pacific oysters.

Panel discussions then provided a Q&A on the state of the Hauraki Gulf, what it might take to fix; how the Hauraki Gulf Regeneration Fund came into being; and how the priority causes were chosen. The Hauraki Gulf Regeneration Fund was established last year as a way to secure funding for organisations working on improving the health of the Hauraki Gulf. The fund’s advisory committee identified two priority causes: The Revive Our Gulf project, which aims to restore the sub-tidal mussel reefs of the Gulf; and the Million Metres Project (from the Sustainable Business Network), which is facilitating the planting of waterways to reduce sediment flowing into the Gulf.


Many thanks to Rachel Smalley who was the EmCee of the event, and to Baduzzi and Man o’ War wines for their support.


This piece was originally published in OBC's August 2021 edition Outboarder print magazine.