DOC and the Marine Reserve Committee will celebrate the first 10 years of Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve on Saturday 21 November with a Family Fun Day at the marine reserve.

Date:  13 November 2009

The Department of Conservation (DOC) and the Marine Reserve Committee will celebrate the first 10 years of Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve on Saturday 21 November with a Family Fun Day at the marine reserve.

Andy Bassett (DOC Area Manager) and Jacqueline Haapu (Chairperson, Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve Committee) said today that they are looking forward to the occasion which recognises the first ten years of work by those people involved with the marine reserve. They are expecting the occasion to be a very special one for Gisborne.

“An afternoon of family activities is planned which includes, guided tours, snorkelling, face painting, fancy dress, sandcastle competitions and “Happy 10th Birthday” photo competition prize-giving. We are looking forward to seeing as many people there on the day and that the weather will be good as well.” Mr Bassett said.

Jacqueline Haapu added “we are encouraging families to pack a picnic lunch, enjoy the marine reserve and the activities that have been organised. It is a beautiful treasure that is being preserved for the education of future generations. It has been an honour to serve as Chairperson of the Marine Reserve Committee since its establishment and I acknowledge the efforts of past and present members.”

“Personally, I will be remembering my treasured and now deceased Grand Uncle Jack Haapu. He, alongside other Ngati Konohi were instrumental in the establishment of the marine reserve. They ensured that the Marine Reserve Committee had 5 Ngati Konohi members and 4 community representatives. There is also a 25 year review process so that the decisions of this generation do not bind those in the future. In my view, these two factors make the marine reserve unique,” Ms Haapu said.

Jamie Quirk (DOC Ranger) who has spent considerable time at the marine reserve said the biggest change he has seen is in people’s attitude.

“The ‘this was what it was like when I was kid’ comments and the next question is ‘how come there aren’t more reserves?’ It’s also the hunter gatherers who visit the reserve with kids, their view is changed and they support places where wild things can live and be observed. The excitement that children and adults get when seeing large crayfish in shallow water is amazing.” Mr Quirk said.

The reserve is approximately sixteen kilometres north of Gisborne and covers an area of 2450 hectares. It was established in 1999 and is the only marine reserve to have been established as a result of a joint application between DOC and tangata whenua, Ngati Konohi of Whangara.

Marine reserves were set up to establish examples of New Zealand’s marine environment, to create an undersea equivalent of national parks and to allow scientific research. The legal protection that has been in place has enabled populations of marine species to respond impressively, particularly rock lobster or crayfish, which have significantly increased in both size and abundance.

Fish behaviour has altered also Large Blue Moki, Schools of Trevelley and Eagle Rays can be seen in shallow water. There is also a vast array of Small Triplefins, Octopus, Squid and Seaslugs to be seen if you take time. Meanwhile on the beach there are a variety of shorebirds including the NZ Dotterel.

Debbie Freeman’s PhD on ‘The Ecology of Spiny Lobsters (Jasus Edwardsii) on fished and unfished reefs” has been the single largest piece of research in the marine reserve. It  has provided valuable information for the design and size of future marine reserves. Annual fish and crayfish surveys have also provided useful information. Debbie now works as a Scientist at DOC’s National Office and will be at the celebrations to provide a brief presentation on this research.

Upgrading the access road into the reserve was a joint project between Tapuwae Whitiwhiti Inc, Gisborne District Council and DOC that has improved access dramatically. This improved access makes it easier for school groups to have a longer time in the marine environment.

It is hoped that the marine reserve will continue to be a valuable resource for the people of Gisborne into the future.  DOC and the Marine Reserve Committee look forward to the next milestone at twenty years.

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