Govt to establish 18 new marine protection areas, restrict trawling in Hauraki Gulf

The Government has announced the establishment of 18 new marine protection areas in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf in a raft of changes for the waterway.

There will also be a restriction on trawling.

Campaigners describe the state of the Hauraki Gulf as a crisis and have desperately called for change. 

"We are delivering on our election promise, taking immediate action to build on the good work already being done to restore the health of the Gulf," Fisheries Minister David Parker said on Tuesday. "We are also taking the long view, recognising that sustained action is necessary to ensure that the Gulf and its economic, environmental, cultural, and social benefits can continue to be enjoyed."

Campaigners had hoped for urgent action to revitalise the Gulf. Sam Woolford, from sport fishing organisation LegaSea, said the changes couldn't wait any longer.

"We still use really destructive fishing techniques," he told The AM Show. "We're still bottom trawling, we're dredging and those techniques have a really detrimental impact on the ecosystem."

Acting Conservation Minister Ayesha Verrall said unique marine species rely on a healthy Hauraki Gulf.

"It's crucial that this package of actions works for all," Dr Verrall said in a statement. "We'll be seeking further input from Mana Whenua and engaging with key stakeholders to make sure it's done right."

The Green party says it welcomes the proposal, but wants to see more action.

"We desperately need to restore the seabed in the Gulf if we want healthy ecosystems and abundant fisheries for future generations, and that means we need to start completely phasing out activities like trawling and scallop dredging today; and substantially reduce sediment inputs," Conservation spokesperson Eugenie Sage said.

"The Government should commit to protecting 30 percent of the Gulf, a goal which has been endorsed by the Hauraki Gulf Forum, so our oceans can start to recover and fish, and seabirds and marine life thrive," said Sage, who was Conservation Minister under the previous Government.