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Submissions that refuse to submit

It's been a busy month for making submissions, but we have refused to be submissive! It seems such a funny title to submit to making submissions. But really important to have a say. The Government is rushing through fast-track legislation to allow a range of extractive industries like sea bed mining and infrastructure proposals like off-shore wind farms, which pose real risks to Māui and Hector's dolphins. Our submission in opposition is here:


*Submission against Fast-Track Bill

My/our commentsMāui and Hector's dolphins are the smallest and rarest marine dolphin in the world. They are only found here in NZ waters. They were once the most abundant dolphins here but they have been decimated by human causes, in particular, bycatch in the fishing industry. Proposals in the fast-track process are likely to seriously impact on Māui and Hector's dolphins. These include marine activities such as sea bed mining, and land based activities such as mining and intensive dairy, which all have a direct and/or indirect impact. These risks and impacts are unsustainable on such small populations which number as few as 40 individuals in some areas. The proposed decision making process is arbitrary and lacks rigour. The Ministerial panel of three people includes insufficient expertise to make a proper decision on technical and ecological grounds, and these should not be overriden by economics. Current consent processes are sometimes slow for a reason - because the decisions are so significant and complex that they need expert input. The proposed fast-track panel is no substitute for debates on the best scientific evidence. Irreparable long term damage is likely through the rushed consenting process proposed. 

  • My/our recommendations Reject the fast track consenting process in its entirety" 


It's also time that councils are preparing their Long-term Plans (LTP), setting budgets for the coming year and the next ten years. We submitted to the Environment Canterbury LTP in writing and in person. We'll upload a video link to the spoken submission when it's online, and both are here below:


*"Submission to Environment Canterbury Long-term Plan


Māui and Hector’s Dolphin Defenders is a non-profit Incorporated Society with the purpose of improving the health and population status of the New Zealand dolphin. 


This submission was authorised by the committee at a meeting on 4 April 2024.


Our primary submission point is that ECan should fund and expedite a review of the Regional (Coastal) Plan, to protect Hector’s dolphins. 


So far, more than 4000 people have signed the Māui and Hector’s Dolphin Defenders petition to ECan to protect Hector’s through the regional Plan. (LINK)


We wish to be heard in support of our submission.


As the Draft Long-term Plan notes, ECan is the region’s key environmental regulator. This role should not be undervalued, so we were concerned to see recent media reports that ECan is proposing to reduce regulatory, monitoring and enforcement staff. This is an area that needs more resource, not less as the environment is under so much pressure, and there’s evidence that ECan has not devoted enough to this work in the past. 


Regional councils can now regulate fishing to protect the marine environment. The Canterbury marine environment is an important host of biodiversity and resilience with intrinsic, cultural and economic value. More funding to develop protection of Hector’s dolphins in particular, is needed.


In response to specific consultation points in the draft Long-term Plan, we submit:


  1. Environmental regulation and enforcement

  • ECan must urgently review the Regional (Coastal) Plan, to protect Hector’s and other endemic wildlife, ecosystems and habitats, as well as the biology and geology on which they depend.

  • We support funding for Option 1, the option to increase funding to $139.4m pa. 

  • There should be no reduction in funding in any area.

  • Funding across all areas must be increased.

  • We support the proposed Christchurch and Banks Peninsula targeted rate even while we support Option 1. 

  • The targeted rate should integrate land and coastal marine protection and restoration given that ECan has responsibility out 12nm to sea. 

  • ECan must address the causes and impacts of climate change.

  • We support funding for climate change mitigation and adaptation in any funding scenario chosen. 


Comments:

Option 2 is ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ - reducing spending in some areas that need it, to increase funding in other areas that need it. It’s a false economy, more investment is needed across the board.


The impact of land use on the marine environment, and non-compliance or poor performance in farm, forestry or industrial practices can lead to ocean pollution affecting rare endemic Hector’s dolphins. 


Activities at sea are also disastrous for Hector’s. Fishing bycatch is the biggest known cause of Hector’s deaths, including 11 dead since last September. They included a mother and calf killed in one net, among others, in Pegasus Bay. Add to that, other threats such as boat strike, oil spills (Austro Carina for example), tourism, industrial port activities… there’s a lot that ECan could and should be doing to protect Hector’s. 


Given the importance of Hector’s globally, nationally and locally, and to the Canterbury economy, ECan must address the impacts of all these issues in its Regional Plan.


Hector’s are victims and indicators of the ecological metacrisis which includes climate change and biodiversity loss. ECan’s past compliance failures and weak rules are making things worse. 


In the age of the anthropocene, we need more funding for local action, not less. Local community action is a real amplifier of Council work and builds capacity and resilience in nature and in society. Funds should not be reduced.


The ecological values of Banks Peninsula are so high that the targeted rate is warranted. It would also support the significant community effort into Banks’ restoration currently underway.


Too often biodiversity investment focuses just on land, as if the ocean isn’t rich, varied and under threat, needing restoration. This looks likely in the case of the current proposals. Yet this is the time and opportunity for ECan to take a progressive, integrated approach across Banks Peninsula and Christchurch terrestrial landmass and out 12nm to sea, including critical Hector’s habitat. Integrated management is not just ‘mountains to the sea’, but must also include the sea itself. 


The council must not just respond to events where environmental harm is occuring, but must also prevent these to begin with. Humans are outstripping natural resources and the Earth’s carrying capacity on all environmental indicators. 


The Regional (Coastal) Plan is now so old as to be out of date and not up with contemporary environmental evidence (Hector’s deaths) or case law  (i.e the Motiti case, which established Regional Councils can govern fisheries for marine ecosystem protection).


Consistent and transparent compliance and enforcement with rules and resource consent conditions is also critical to prevent environmental harm.


Climate change mitigation, resilience and adaptation must not mean ‘business as usual - with sea walls’. It must mean managed retreat from the coast, riparian and coastal revegetation and setbacks, and a reduction in nitrogen and other pollutants to waterways discharging directly or indirectly to Hector’s habitat. 


It must also mean a review of the Regional (Coastal) Plan to recognise that with climate change, Hector’s dolphins, their food prey species, their marine ecosystems and other inhabitants are even more under threat, and that protection from fishing, tourism, pollution and industrial activities is necessary.


It’s not clear what is meant by the statement under ‘Local Action Support’ “Options 2 and 3 reduce funding to respective levels.’ What are these respective levels? Respective to what? 


  1. Community preparedness and response to hazards

We support additional funding for this work. We submit: 


  • We support Option 1, an increase in funding to $57.9m pa, including debt funding given the intergenerational benefit of work done now.

  • The work on climate risks and navigational safety are priorities especially as they relate to Hector’s dolphins. 

  • An update to the Regional (Coastal) Plan, plus enforcement and compliance improvements, are essential for ECan to meet its biodiversity and climate change challenges. This requires more funding and capacity, not less.

  • Community preparedness needs to address risks from human activities on the coastal marine environment. 


Comments:

There are many pressures on Hector’s dolphins in Canterbury waters. ECan needs to invest in a new set of policies and rules that reflect the role the council can have in fisheries related marine biodiversity protection, and new pressures and threats facing Hector’s.


At present ECan’s Regional (Coastal) Plan does not reflect the urgent pressures facing Hector’s dolphins, the coasts or the oceans for which the Council has responsibility. Because it’s out of date the current Plan doesn’t reflect the extent of that responsibility established by the Environment Court in 2023 in relation to the Far North Regional Plan and new fisheries restrictions. 


Page 36 of the Draft Long-term Plan talks about ‘Informing efficient and effective contaminated land and disaster waste management in a changing climate.’ Climate change is adding to the effects of industrial discharges and waste, and also increasing coastal erosion risks which include exposing old rubbish dumps, and leading to more storm debris and old coastal infrastructure washing into the ocean. 


For example, the Pareora meatworks discharge is appalling, seems like poor practice and could be made worse by climate change or coastal erosion, and has negative impacts on the water quality in Hector’s habitat either way. The poor water quality of Lake Ellesmere /      Waihora leads to Hector’s swimming in algae contaminated outflow. 


Investment in community preparedness and hazards response are areas needing both better performance improvement, monitoring and enforcement as well as planning for coastal erosion.


  1. A targeted rate for Christchurch and Banks Peninsula 

We support additional investment in Christchurch and Banks Peninsula through a targeted rate. We submit:

 

  • ECan should ensure any flood protection work includes restoration and resilience to improve, protect and enhance downstream marine ecosystems. This should include riparian enhancement, nitrogen reduction and maintaining river flushing so that contaminants from land use are minimised but flows still maintain flushing and geomorphological integrity which is important to fish habitat and Hector’s survival.


Comments:

The biodiversity values of Banks Peninsula are significant, and improving, due to landowner and community investment. 


The biodiversity enhancement and protection enabled through this targeted rate and other Council funding, must extend to the marine habitat of Hector’s dolphins. 


Hector’s dolphins are endemic and threatened by bycatch, prey species depletion, boat strike, climate change, underwater noise, tourism, plastics, pollution, ocean acidification and nutrient overload, as well as from coastal occupation and nutrient increase from aquaculture.


The draft Long-term Plan rightly recognises opportunities and need for pest management and biodiversity outcomes on land. But ECan’s responsibilities extend out 12nm to sea, and the initiatives and work funded through the targeted rate and other funding must cover that whole area too.


Land use practices and the state of the marine environment are connected. 


Other points:

  • Consideration of degraded freshwater should extend to its impacts on the marine environment in an integrated way.


The Long-term Plan consultation document also recognises the state of Canterbury’s freshwater, but doesn’t extend that recognition to the receiving environments of that polluted and depleted water when it gets to the sea, and what that means for the animals like Hector’s that live in it. 


Hector’s are affected by polluted freshwater pollution since they live and forage in inshore coastal areas, near river outflows and estuaries.


It is unacceptable for Hector’s to have to live in algae contaminated and nutrient enriched water and they should be taken into account in land and freshwater planning decisions. 


Summary:

Because of their scarcity and rarity, being only found here in NZ, and the threats they face, Hector’s must be a high priority for biodiversity enhancement.  


Canterbury is a Hector's dolphin hotspot. Sadly, most recent Hector’s bycatch deaths have been in Canterbury waters. We submit that ECan should fund a Hector’s dolphin recovery strategy for the Canterbury coastal environment. This should identify threats and policies needed to address them. The review of the Regional (Coastal) Plan should give effect to these recovery goals."


*Verbal submission to ECan LTP:


Thanks for the opportunity to speak to our submission on behalf of Māui and Hector’s Dolphin Defenders, which I assume you have all read.


I won’t repeat our submission but will speak further to it, starting with a question for you all to ponder:


If you could save a species, would you?


Because you can.


Our call that ECan protect Hector’s dolphins through its regional coastal plan now has 4441 signatures and we know that it will grow to 10,000, 20,000, more, as Hector’s continue to be killed in Canterbury waters.


Think of the female Hector’s dolphin, the mother, now ascribed the title H330, and her female calf, still suckling, now called H331. On 21 February this year, they were swimming together, with their pod, catching fish in Pegasus Bay. 


They were both healthy dolphins, with a loving bond between them. The calf had recently fed from her mum. 


They were caught in a trawl net. The thin nylon net entangling their bodies cut through their fins as they fought to escape. But after up to three minutes of entanglement, they both drowned. 


Killing not just this generation but also the next.


Think of the other 14 Hector’s dead in Canterbury waters since November last year.

Think of the hundreds - maybe thousands, killed before.


And think of your power.


You can stop Hector’s dolphins being killed in Canterbury waters.


And if not you - then who? 


If you don’t review and update your Regional Coastal Plan urgently, more dolphins will continue to die as the result of your inaction.


So if you could save a species, would you? Because you can.


The Regional Coastal Plan is already hopelessly out of date, and overdue a review. 


I know from my time as a Councillor and Deputy Chair of the Auckland Regional Council that there will always be competing priorities. I know that ECan is facing many environmental pressures. 


But the last LTP allocated funding for the coastal plan review. You now need to deliver. Don’t let the nirvana of perfection prevent you from making a start. 


As scientists warn us about the pressure facing NZ’s marine mammals “

The politics of compromise can be insidious, and undermine actions needed urgently. It is crucial that biological viability remains a core, non-negotiable goal…” “...There is a risk that a quest for holism may result in complexity and delay, so achievement of this ideal may need to be balanced with the need for urgency.”


There is no issue more urgent than the need to protect Hector’s dolphins.


Start now, scope out what a proper review of the coastal plan would look like, but let the scoping be aimed at progress, not paralysis. 


Make plans for proper engagement with stakeholders, including iwi, but let that engagement strengthen the process and build relationships, not stop the work that needs to be done, to save Hector’s and their habitat. 


Start the urgent work now, so you can be up front with iwi and affected communities, to see how customary rights and Treaty interests might be recognised, but let that enable broad protection, not stop it.


Because you can save this species. And you must.


We are in the midst of a biodiversity and climate change crisis - an extinction crisis, a metacrisis.


Hector’s dolphins are at the mercy of both what happens on the land, as well as at sea. So don’t trade off responding to land-use pressures against what happens at sea. Your job is to be kaitiaki of the marine environment out to 12nm. Be that kaitiaki. For the sake of H330 and her calf H331, but for the sake of all the Hector’s out there now facing pointless deaths. 


You can save a species. ECan, you can. Please do.


Thank you.


*We also submitted to the Christchurch City Council LTP, in particular about their support for the SailGP yacht race. The submission is here:

"We submit that Lyttelton harbour Marine Mammal Sanctuary is no place for the high speed yacht race SailGP. Christchurch City Council and ChristchurchNZ should not be actively promoting the race in that or any other Hector’s dolphin habitat location.


We note on page 151 of the draft Plan (vol1), the recognition that ‘Attracting increased visitation and economic activity may result in increased GHG emissions, and other environmental externalities’. The Council proposes the following mitigation: ‘ChristchurchNZ is committed to sustainable economic growth and will work with businesses and partners to prioritise operating practices that contribute to reducing GHG emissions, supporting the long-term shift from an extractive to a regenerative economy.’


Page 49 of the consultation document talks about ChristchurchNZ bidding for and attracting events like SailGP.


However, SailGP is the opposite of regenerative economics with its risks to Hector’s dolphins (and its risks from Hector’s dolphins - ie of being completely disrupted), and its high costs of transport and related GHG emissions just from getting here. SailGP should not be supported by the Council in Hector’s habitat. 


Our petition calling on ChristchurchNZ to not host SailGP so far has over 600 signatures, but the feedback from the public after the March 2024 SailGP, was most in favour of the dolphins.


The Council should be supporting genuinely regenerative events, those that would actually value and improve the habitat and population health of Hector's dolphins, and not supporting events that put them at risk.


*And we also submitted to the Department of Conservation 'Conservation Services Programme', in particular about Dolphin Deterrent Devices that the fishing industry use to try and scare away dolphins from nets - unsuccessfully:


"Our specific interest in the Conservation Services Programme 2024-25 relates to Hector’s dolphin research.


We make the following points:


  1. Administrative costs


We support an increase in budget to deliver the proposed CSP programme. Proper monitoring of fisheries impacts on threatened species needs proper funding. This work should not be at risk because of insufficient funding.


The fishing industry should cover any costs incurred because of fishing impacts. We have heard the Minister of Oceans and Fisheries claim that because fish stocks are a public resource, observer and onboard camera costs should be funded by the public purse. We argue that because the benefits of fishing accrue to the industry, they should pay. 


Electronic monitoring and observer coverage are needed because of the impacts of the industry on the oceans commons. The industry is imposing externalities onto the marine ecosystem, and quantifying these and addressing them should be funded by the industry that causes the need for them. So while we agree with an increase in costs to properly manage fisheries impacts, the industry generating those impacts should pay.


  1. Observing commercial fisheries


We note that full observer coverage details are still being developed and will be consulted on in the future. We wish to be included in the list of stakeholders for this consultation.


  1. INT2023-04 Identification of marine mammals, turtles and protected fish captured in New Zealand fisheries 


This project is based on information on bycatch from the fishing industry provided quarterly and reported annually. However, this may not be often enough to properly respond to high bycatch rates of threatened species. 


We also note that the Draft CSP suggests that depending on results from the onboard camera programme, 

the stocks currently allocated may be revisited in the future. However, there is no detail about what would trigger that ‘revisit’, what are the processes, thresholds and triggers for change?  More clarity is required for transparency and clarity for all stakeholders that bycatch is being managed in light of new (onboard camera) information in a way that meets timely sustainability drivers.


  1.   INT2024-02 Port-based audit and protected species retention programme 


We support this programme on the basis that it will improve timely oversight, collection and identification of bycatch. 


  1. INT2024-06 Interaction of spotted shags with northern North Island set net fisheries


While not relating specifically to Māui or Hector’s dolphins, we support this programme. In some ways, spotted shags are an indicator species of the impacts of set nets on other marine animals including dolphins.


For example, we were interested in the case of the tracked spotted shag 224976 who was monitored for 108 days until caught in a set net off Te Puru then discarded in a ditch. This event happened around the same time that Hector’s dolphins were reported visiting the Firth of Thames. 


The significant loss of spotted shags in set nets is a tragedy for the species. It also indicates the significant risks of set nets on non-target species, whether they are permanent residents or vagrants. 


This spotted shag research programme should reveal important information that can be extrapolated to inform other species’ threat management programmes.


  1. POP2023-05 Auckland Islands New Zealand sea lions 


While not related to our mandate around Māui and Hector’s dolphins, we see this work as essential given the decline of NZ sea lions. The trawl and other human caused threats to sea lions, and their population decline, reflect the threats and population status of Hector’s. The removal of the Fisheries Related Mortality Limits makes this work even more important.


  1. MIT2024-01 Protected Species Liaison Project 


We support this programme. The onboard electronic monitoring is revealing much more bycatch than previously reported. The response to the new data from electronic monitoring must be more efforts to reduce bycatch. This must mean the exclusion of fishing methods in areas where threatened species and indiscriminate and unsustainable fishing overlap. In the meantime however, liaison between officials and fishers is important to reduce bycatch as much as possible. With regard to Hector’s this is important for the voluntary low headline height and slow trawl speed practices which are proving ineffective at reducing bycatch.


  1. MIT2024-07 Hector's dolphin acoustic deterrent devices in trawl fisheries


We note that there are a range of acoustic deterrent devices across New Zealand fisheries used to dissuade Hector’s from approaching nets and becoming bycatch. We also note that the draft CSP recognises that keeping fishing boats out of their habitat (spatiotemporal restrictions) is the most efficient and effective way of keeping dolphins safe.


Interest from the industry is not a good reason to investigate and deploy pingers or Acoustic Deterrent Devices (ADDs) when fishing restrictions are more effective and efficient.


We also note that depending on how they are deployed, ADDs may not be performing as manufacturers expect, and may be unreliable for actually deterring dolphins and keeping them safe.


We agree “It is important for all stakeholders to understand the viability and limitations of using such devices….if they are to be used for mitigating captures of Hector’s dolphins in New Zealand fisheries.”


We submit that ADDs should not be used because of their unintended consequences. Firstly, they may not deter dolphins at all, giving a false sense of mitigation. Secondly, they might condition the dolphins to associate pingers with food, attracting and habituating the dolphins to the threats they are supposed to avoid, not deterring the dolphins at all. ADDs are no substitute for getting the nets out of the dolphin habitat. Thirdly, if they are effective deterrents, they deter the dolphins from pursuing and catching important prey food.


While we see benefit in quantifying the use and efficacy of ADDs, we are concerned that this programme takes funding away from research projects that have been agreed and prioritised under the Hector’s and Māui Five Year Research Strategy.


Any current reliance on ADDs might well be mistaken, and this programme may reveal the limitations of this reliance. However, we already know that too many dolphins are being killed in nets, current mitigation is unsuccessful, and set and trawl nets have no place in Hector’s habitat.


We submit that the Draft CSP needs to include research projects that enable the objectives of the Māui and Hector’s Threat Management Plan to be met - that means recovery, not just deterrence from important food sources."


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