Marlborough Express - Making the Sounds' future sound
With a staggering 1700 kilometres of coastline, sparkling blue waters and lush forests, I and many others consider the beautiful and unique Marlborough Sounds to be the jewel in our region's crown.
That jewel could be under threat if we don't protect it.
A newly released report by Marlborough marine biologist Rob Davidson, commissioned by the Marlborough District Council, revealed that 1300 hectares of marine habitat was destroyed in just four years.
In his report, Rob attributes that damage, among other things, to runoff from cleared forestry sites, dredging, trawling and anchors. Rob has called the findings of his research shocking.
He said we haven't got much left and if we don't do anything about it, it will continue to be lost. It's a strong message.
The pressures on the unique and diverse ecosystems that make up the Marlborough Sounds are many and varied, which adds to the challenge of how to manage it.
Aquaculture industries, such as mussel farms, are required to seek approval through the Resource Management Act, but so many other activities - commercial or otherwise - are not.
Encouragingly, work is under way to save what we have. Last December, I was pleased to attend the launch of the Marlborough Marine Futures Project at the Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary, hosted by the Marlborough Sounds Integrated Management Trust.
This group has come together to develop rules driven by the requirements and interests of all stakeholders, regulators, wider communities and other concerned parties with regards to the future of the marine environment. I absolutely applaud this holistic approach.
As I said at the launch, without the willing participation of all affected parties, a solution imposed on the community would have no meaning. The Marlborough Marine Futures approach brings together iwi, the Department of Conservation, Marlborough District Council, commercial and recreational fishers and locals: everyone does, and should, get a say.
The group has adopted a timeframe of five years to develop a plan encompassing what the community want and how to achieve it. I am in no doubt this will be a challenge, but looking at the Te Korowai Te Tai o Marokura - Kaikoura Marine Strategy, we know what can and has been achieved. The Government got behind that consensus and enacted special legislation to implement what the community had agreed to.
As such, I will be watching the progress with interest. It is, I believe, the best way to explore ways in which individuals and organisations can build an exciting and, above all, sustainable future for our unique jewel at the top of the south.