Hauraki Gulf report offers hope for future - but warns failure to act will create 'zombie apocalypse-type scenario'

Crystal-clear waters and thriving kaimoana - that is how the Hauraki Gulf could look in 150 years, according to a new report. But only if we act now.

The report's authors say to get there we'll need to ban bottom trawling and dredging, increase protected areas to 30 percent of the gulf, and reduce the run-off of chemicals, plastics, and sediment into the sea.

Failure to act however, could result in a very different future. The report warns we'll find ourselves in a "zombie apocalypse-type scenario" if protection of the Hauraki Gulf isn't made a priority.

It's the year 2173, and the Hauraki Gulf is thriving.

"You can catch a kingfish off the wharf here, feed your family, the beaches are all clean," said Hauraki Gulf Forum chief executive Alex Rogers.

Think improved water clarity, flourishing seabirds and restoration of shellfish species.

That's the vision of two professors who've predicted a fictional future state of the Hauraki Gulf in 150 years. Using the latest science, they've worked backwards to demonstrate what needs to be done.

But they say it relies on us acting ­­now.

"The gulf can recover. We're not on some pre-determined path where recovery is not possible," said University of Auckland Professor in marine science and aquaculture Conrad Pilditch.

"We're lucky in Aotearoa that with the right management actions, recovery is possible, but we've gotta start today."

"We cannot let our oceans be too hard to fix. They're the life support system of the planet," added University of Auckland Professor Simon Thrush, head of the Institute of Marine Science.

The Hauraki Gulf Marine Park is the first of its kind in Aotearoa, stretching from Te Arai in the north to Waihi in the south.

At 1.4 million hectares it includes the Waitematā Harbour, Gulf Islands, and the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula.

The gulf's been described as the seabird capital of the world and a whale superhighway, but between climate change and pollution, it's a shadow of its former self.

"Right now we have some major environmental catastrophes on our hands," warned Nicola MacDonald, CEO of Ngāti Manuhiri Settlement Trust.

"We've got a marine heatwave so we've gotta address climate change. We've got major pests like caulerpa. We as New Zealanders deserve to look at the Hauraki Gulf flourishing and thriving."

The report comes just weeks after new bottom trawling restrictions were proposed, as well as plans to triple the area currently under marine protection.

It also calls on the incoming Government to make protecting the gulf a priority.

"We noticed Christopher Luxon went boating out on the gulf during coalition talks, so we're really hoping there's going to be a lot of ambition from the new Government when it comes to the gulf," Rogers said.

Ambition paired with action - the key to making sure Auckland's big blue backyard flourishes.

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