Hauraki Gulf Degradation


It’s a disgrace.

Our wonderful Hauraki Gulf is experiencing ongoing environmental degradation, and resources are continuing to be lost or suppressed at environmentally low levels.

That’s the grim conclusion in the State of the Gulf report before the Auckland Council’s Hauraki Gulf Forum.

It’s no surprise to any of us who have stared into the often murky waters of late and wondered how we have come to this.

The report’s wording doesn’t beat around the bush. It bluntly warns:

It’s inevitable that further loss of the Gulf’s natural assets will occur unless bold, sustained and innovative steps are taken to reduce the utilisation of its resources and halt progressive environmental degradation.  The regulatory tools appear to be available to do this, but to date they have either not been implemented or the manner of implementation has not been effective.

The challenge facing today’s managers and kaitiaki who seek to achieve the Hauraki Gulf Forum’s vision for the Gulf, is to find solutions to the progressive decline in the Gulf’s resources and ecosystem, and to protect opportunities for future generations.

Hauraki Gulf not as beautiful as it seems

The report says:

• Current fisheries management rules keep stocks of fish such as snapper and crayfish well below natural levels. Having about three quarters of potential fish numbers missing from the system, particularly large individuals, has altered other plant and animal life around the Gulf. Fishing methods, particularly bottom trawling used in 30-40 percent of commercial catch, are likely to cause substantial reductions in species and habitat diversity.
• Toxic metals and organic contaminants are causing localised effects in Auckland estuaries and a number of metal contaminants also exceed sediment guidelines in the southern Firth of Thames.
• The Waihou and Piako rivers dominate nutrient loads to the Gulf with 70 percent originating from diffuse agricultural sources. The 1 percent per annum increase in nitrogen in rivers is consistent with increasing dairy cow numbers and uses of fertiliser and supplementary feeds.
• Muddy sediment rates are above natural levels and related changes in marine communities have been detected in several north Auckland estuaries.
• Mangrove expansion and other habitat changes are implicated in the decline of about half of the most common wading birds of the southern Firth of Thames.
• Endangered Bryde’s whales may be in decline due to vessel strike and entanglement in mussel farm spat lines.
• A large amount of plastic litter continues to enter the coastal environment, with long term persistence in the environment and effects on wildlife and aesthetics.

The report also notes encouraging signs; improving water clarity from better regulation and management of sediment run-off, declining trends in nutrients in Auckland Rivers and a rebuild of kahawai stocks.

It identifies the need for:

  • keeping discharges of nutrients, contaminants and sediments within ecological limits
  •  clear strategies to extend the network of blue and green protected and regenerating areas throughout the Gulf,
  • enhancing fish stocks and protecting ecosystems from the effects of fishing
  •  an ecosystem-based research and management framework that adequately values ecosystem services and assets
  •  Tangata whenua relationships with the Gulf are expected to be increasingly reflected in resource management practice, aiding the enhancement of culturally important environmental assets.

Let’s hope someone not just listens but starts acting.




  1. KarlHansen says:

    100% pure muddied water. Maybe we should ask our PM how he feels about it? He knows our streams are basically healthy (and thus don’t contribute to the Hauraki Gulf’s issues!) - he said so on TV.

    / frustration

  2. DanC says:


    A marine reserve (no fishing zone) set up in a substantial area of the Hauraki Gulf.

    More electric trains / trams going on more routes to take more cars off roads in Auckland to lower the amount of contaminants that go into the waterways. (Also lower the 700 p.a. deaths caused by Auckland’s pollution) S Joyce policies kill 700 people a year.

    More low pollution ferry’s going to more destinations & more frequent shifting people away from cars.

    Periodic detention workers to clear plastic of beaches.

    A be a tidy Aucklander campaign with pictures of the Hauraki Gulf

    Contaminant free roofing products.

  3. richard says:

    Passing through Miranda and the Hauraki Plains some months ago I was horrified to see the way the farms were polluting the river there. There were cows paddling in the river, pooping and peeing in the water, it was a disgusting open sewer. We spend millions on the human sewerage plants and then flow the cattle waste straight into the water……revolting.

    You tend to think of pollution as the muck going in from the city, which is bad enough, but what is going in at the other end of the gulf must be equally as bad if not worse. Cattle should be banned from at least 100 metres from any waterway

  4. Ian M says:

    This reminds me of the brilliant interview of John Key on BBC Hardtalk..funny how it was hardly shown here

  5. Andrew R says:

    I have actually collected the samples and written the primary report on the sediment quality of the Firth of thames. The current Hauraki gulf misrepresents the findings of that my report. There is slightly elevation f metals in the lower firth of thames but adverse effects are not expected. I was sampling the Waihou two weeks ago and the main problem is sedimentation rather than pollution per say. I would be better to read the primary reports rather than the SoE report.

  6. Mark says:

    Interesting comment from Andrew R above, The Herald had some more balanced coverage this morning - ie 10 yr trend 8in sediment was positive, along with a few other points.

    Sounds like this is similar to the old ARC ways - ie over stating and just goign for a headline. It actually hurts the cause in the long run.

  7. rob says:

    With Auckland Council only funding $36 million of stormwater upgrades this financial year, nothing is going to happen soon - this is less than Auckland City Councils capex budget alone for previous years, and now its to cover the whole Auckland region. It seems funding is directed to vote winning / headline projects - people dont care whats underground.


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