The South East Marine Protection Forum is currently seeking comment on the community’s long-term vision for the coastline from Timaru to Waipapa Point at the southern end of the Catlins region. This stretch of the coastline and coastal marine environment is covered by nine councils: Timaru and Waimate Districts, Environment Canterbury, Waitaki District, Dunedin City, Clutha District, Otago Regional Council, Southland District and Environment Southland.
The three regional councils have regional plans and policies that cover the territorial waters of the coastal marine environment, while the district plans and policies of the six district or city councils include provisions for using, developing and protecting coastal lands. Each of these councils has an interest in recreation, biodiversity protection and economic development through tourism and other sectors.
Established to consult widely on protection options and tools, and to make recommendations to government by June 2016, the forum is made up of 14 representatives from a range of groups including environmental, recreational and commercial fishers and the broader community.
The forum has recently started reaching out to the broadest range of marine users to gather information and feedback about what is important to them. This means that when it comes time to sit around the table – taking into account public requirements, expert advice and scientific evidence – the forum will come up with a recommendation that will be informed by as many users as possible.
This bottom-up approach means that any recommendation has been made with community input and should therefore be the most acceptable solution with the least negative impact.
A series of public meetings will continue for the next eight months or so, with opportunities for groups and individuals to ask questions and make statements about what is important to them.
People are also invited to take part in a questionnaire that appears on the website and which utilises a unique mapping technology called Seasketch. Using this tool, visitors to the Seasketch site can see what sort of biodiversity occurs in what regions and can map and comment on the area of the coast that is important to them.
As the process continues Seasketch will be opened for more and more users and will provide valuable information in the recommendation process.
For more information and to take part in the questionnaire:
0800 Our Say (0800 687 729)
This article was first published in the May 2015 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.