Part 5: Transparency of the different processes

Using different processes to protect marine environments.

Transparency is an important part of the process for establishing a marine protected area because it helps users of the marine environment to understand and anticipate changes. It also allows opportunities for the public to provide input into those changes.

In this Part, we discuss:

Information and decisions were shared, and the processes were mostly transparent

Te Korowai and the South-East Forum members recognised the importance of transparency. Everyone we spoke to acknowledged that being open and honest and sharing information with the public was important.

Marine Protected Area Planning Principle Four states:

MPA establishment will be undertaken in a transparent, participatory and timely manner. Support for marine protected areas is likely to be increased where affected parties are adequately informed and have confidence in the integrity of the decision-making process.11

It also states that "these processes will be undertaken in a transparent manner that informs and allows for participation and input from the public". It requires DOC and MPI to document any statutory consultation processes in a way that helps transparency for stakeholders.

To be transparent about what they were planning, Te Korowai and the South-East Forum planned a range of activities to communicate what was happening, what progress had been made, and what was planned to happen next. For example, both groups held regular public meetings, which allowed them to share what was coming up or the status of initiatives. There were also opportunities for the public to provide input into the processes. Public information was made available online, such as through social media platforms and online newsletters. We saw examples of community members being encouraged to share their views, which supported a good level of transparency.

Te Korowai had regular times during their monthly meetings for members of the public to provide their views. They also used Facebook and newsletters to share information.

The South-East Forum had individual members share information with their respective stakeholders. Members actively provided information to sector groups and encouraged the public to participate with the formal consultation process that considered the potential sites for marine protection.

In our view, MPI and DOC did an effective job supporting the South-East Forum and Te Korowai to share information and decisions with the public. For example, DOC supported the South-East Forum by sharing information and decisions through a communications expert, (who was initially a DOC staff member and was later contracted by the South-East Forum). The communications expert's role was to liaise with the media about the South-East Forum, help with publicity, and build community awareness.

How transparency can be improved

Some South-East Forum members were not always clear about why they had been selected to be on the Forum. Some members believed that the selection process was a negotiation between DOC and MPI about the adequate representation of views rather than using the selection criteria. We saw evidence of the selection criteria but it was not clear that it was applied to all members.

Agencies should ensure that all participants are clear on why they were or were not selected. This would contribute to a transparent process and to community members supporting a process.

It took more than a year after the South-East Forum's completion for the Government to announce that it will progress Network 1. When we spoke to members of the South-East Forum before this announcement, they told us that they were not aware of how the recommendations were being progressed. This highlighted to us the importance of maintaining communication with stakeholders on progress to support a sense of ongoing ownership.

11: Department of Conservation and Ministry of Fisheries (2005), Marine Protected Areas: Policy and Implementation Plan, Wellington, page 18.