Part 4: Quality of information available for the different processes

Using different processes to protect marine environments.

MPI and DOC were expected to provide the best available scientific, environmental, and social information to support the South-East Forum and Te Korowai in a timely way for efficient decision-making.

In this Part, we discuss:

Providing the best available information

DOC and MPI made efforts to provide the best available information to Te Korowai and the South-East Forum. This information was about the biodiversity of the region, including fish species, marine habitats, and marine mammals. DOC and MPI also provided information about commercial fishing in the areas being considered for a marine reserve. Generally, those we spoke with felt that the best information at the time was made available to them.

DOC provided the South-East Forum and Te Korowai with scientific and environmental information about the marine environment. This included scientific information about the marine environment’s biodiversity. This information was provided in a timely way to South-East Forum members through SeaSketch, an electronic tool that is used in marine spatial planning to find information about the natural history of an area, as well as information on resource consents, fishing, and administrative boundaries. For Te Korowai, the information was provided in paper format and in presentations.

MPI provided Te Korowai and the South-East Forum with information about fishing practices in the region. This information was about commercial catch, existing fishing tools, and customary fishing information, such as whether any mātaitai or taiāpure were in place. Members from both groups were concerned at the time it took for some of this information to be provided.

SeaSketch made information about the country’s south-east coast’s marine environment available to the South-East Forum.

Most of the people we spoke with considered SeaSketch to be a useful tool. Some members had difficulties accessing the information in SeaSketch, but this was mainly because of unfamiliarity with using computers rather than a problem with the tool. Support and training was made available to members. In our view, DOC could have spent more time on training members so they could more effectively access the information available through SeaSketch.

For the South-East Forum members, the existing information did not cover everything that they wanted to know. Although some members of the South-East Forum accepted that decisions needed to be made using the best available information, the absence of certain information (such as the extent of recreational fishing in a particular area) caused some members to question the South-East Forum’s ability to make informed decisions. It was made clear to the members that they were not able to commission new research if they had outstanding concerns.

In our view, it is neither practical nor possible to provide information about every aspect of the marine environment for a marine protection forum to consider. However, DOC and MPI should ensure that future Marine Protection Planning Forums and working groups have as much information as possible on the marine environment being considered for marine protection. This might involve commissioning research ahead of time to ensure that there is enough information.

Public submissions informed both processes

Public submissions were sought through a formal consultation process for both Te Korowai and the South-East Forum. However, for the South-East Forum, there were delays in analysing this information. This created frustration for some members and left others feeling that they were not able to make informed decisions.

The South-East Forum and Te Korowai carried out formal consultation processes to collect information about social values. The public was asked to comment on the potential proposed sites for the marine protected areas. In our view, the processes were carried out in a way that made it easy for people to submit their views, creating a valuable source of information.

However, for the South-East Forum, there was a lack of clarity in the contracts of those who provided the analysis, which led to issues with the quality of analysis. This also led to delays in members being provided with social values information in a usable format, contributing to the frustration from some members.

Scientific information that was provided by the public during the consultation process was analysed by a separate contractor. This was done well, and the South-East Forum members appreciated the information provided from this analysis. This also allowed for scientific information to be presented to the South-East Forum in a way that was accessible to those without technical knowledge.

Delays in some information provided by the Ministry for Primary Industries caused frustration

There were delays in MPI providing commercial fishing information to Te Korowai and the South-East Forum. Members wanted information about types of fish and methods used to catch fish in particular areas, the number of fish caught, and the value of that catch. This was so they could consider this information alongside the scientific information on biodiversity, look at the relevant significance of a particular spot, and balance proposed marine protected areas with the likely effects it would have on existing users of the marine environment. The delay in receiving the information was a significant concern to the South-East Forum members because they were working under a tight time frame.

MPI told us that at least some of the delays were because of the constraints on releasing fishing catch and effort data, which it gathers from commercial fishers. MPI needed to obtain permission from commercial sector organisations before releasing this data to Te Korowai and the South-East Forum. MPI acknowledges that members in both Te Korowai and the South-East Forum expressed frustration with the time it took to provide fishing catch and effort data. MPI also accepts that it is obligated to provide information in a timely manner.

In future processes, members should be able to rely on information that supports the delivery of its objectives being provided in a timely way.

Recommendation 2
We recommend that the Department of Conservation and the Ministry for Primary Industries work together ahead of time to collect and collate all available information on an area that is being considered for marine protection or management to ensure that it is available to members of Marine Protection Planning Forums or working groups in a timely way.