Remarks at the Launch of the Hauraki Gulf State of the Environment Report by Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director
Auckland, 3 June 2008-Mike Lee, Hauraki Gulf Forum Deputy Chair and Chair Auckland Regional Council
-Hon Steve Chadwick, Minister of Conservation
-Chairman John Tregidga and fellow members of the Hauraki Gulf Forum
-Laly Haddon, past Chair of the Forum
Ladies and gentlemen, this setting of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Club is no stranger to UNEP.
Seven years ago in the presence of the Prime Minister of New Zealand my predecessor, Klaus Toepfer conferred the title of UNEP Special Envoy on Sir Peter Blake.
His tragic death at the hands of pirates, so soon after becoming an UNEP ambassador for the environment robbed the world of not only a great sailor.
But a real champion for the causes that are so central to UNEP's work and so dear to the hearts of the Hauraki Gulf Forum.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I listened carefully to the remarks by Mike Lee and was struck by both the challenges and opportunities this marine park in the heart of Auckland's coastal waters is facing.
In a sense, this second state of the environment report reflects the challenges many coastal communities are facing across the world.
Challenges as they try to balance the diverse interests of so many users with the need to conserve and enhance the marine environment for current and future generations.
The pressures on coastal zones world-wide are formidable.
And while the circumstances may differ from place to place and Continent to Continent, it is clear that only through resolute cooperation can true management of these natural or nature-based assets be fully realized.
Some one billion people now live in coastal urban areas and the pressures are likely to rise as the world population climbs from 6.7 billion to nine billion by mid-century.
I note that similar development pressures are happening here as a result of people drawn to this spectacular coastal location to live and to work.
The role of Marine Parks like Hauraki Gulf is to act as buffers, ensuring that all interests and all rights, both historical and cultural are balanced against those of others and of users.
Such parks, like this one here in New Zealand, are in many ways a microcosm of UNEP's work as it relates to the interface between land and sea and diverse activities?both up stream and downstream?which in turn can impact on such a location.
For unless all parties connected with a catchment are fully on board, the good work of many can be rapidly undone by the less than optimal actions of others-whether it be industry or agriculture, shipping or fishermen or planning decisions by developers and local, regional or national government.
In 1995 governments adopted Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities which UNEP administers.
The GPA, as it is known in short-hand, is a set of guidelines aimed at reducing pollution to the sea 80 per cent of which on average comes from the land.
And which globally could rise significantly by 2050 if, as expected, coastal populations double in just over 40 years time and action to combat pollution is not accelerated.
Currently more than 60 countries across Continents including Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean are now part of this global effort.
Many are integrating the GPA into national development strategies and some are working with neighbouring countries to develop integrated coastal zone management.
At the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in 2002, UNEP/GPA and its partner organisations launched the Hilltops-to-Oceans (H2O) partnership and the FreshCo partnership on linking the management approaches of Integrated Coastal Management and Integrated Water Resources Management which is on-going.
Under these initiatives many shining examples emerge of integrated management between the land and the coastal zones including Chilika Lagoon, in India; the Incomati River, Southern Africa and the Bang Pakong River, Thailand
Ladies and gentlemen,
In October 2006, UNEP published its own State of the Marine Environment Report but from a global rather than a local perspective.
Like your report it showed progress is occurring but in some areas But old problems persist and new ones like nutrient-rich 'dead zones' and the impacts of climate change are emerging.
Another new problem emerging is heavy metals and pollutants from landfills linked with the increase in the number of electronic goods being made and disposed of?such goods can contain up to 1,000 substances.
So we have a long way to go politically, technically and financially if we are to hand over healthy and productive seas and oceans to the next generation.
Where improvements are occurring one can see the joining hands of disparate groups and institutions sometimes across borders and even regions?many of the real success stories have involved those managing a catchment to set goals.
The report points to rivers such as the Seine in France;the Scheldt and the Rhine on the border between Belgium and the Netherlands and the Ems in Germany.
Working with nature rather than against it, can also prove highly cost effective.
One of the most startling examples is the famous Catskills example. New York city was running out of water and it had in the pipeline a multi billon dollar programme of water sewage treatment plants.
Environmentalists, in alliance with the city, argued that there was another way.
They persuaded New York to undertake a massive refurbishment of toilets that used significantly less water when compared with the old ones.
They also successfully argued that, for just a few hundred million dollars, better management of the Catskills watershed above New York could solve the water shortage problem.
It is a living example of how a city, by investing in water sheds, has taken a systems perspective with wide ranging benefits to not just water supplies but ecosystem and biodiversity conservation and of course to New York's economy.
The schemes success rested in the local authorities working in close cooperation with landowners, farmers and foresters to name but a few of the key stakeholders.
Ladies and gentlemen, I mentioned climate change earlier.Indeed it is the theme of World Environment Day which will be marked on 5 June in Wellington under the theme "Kick the C02 Habit".
One of the fascinating facts that emerged recently from the GPA's work is that the majority of what we call Large Marine Ecosystems appears to be warming far faster than other ocean areas and the land.
There is now a real concern in places like the highly productive Benguela Current off Africa and in low lying areas such as Bangladesh and the Flordia Keys and should be a concern for all those who are attempting to manage natural coastal assets.
And there are other reasons for concern.
At least three quarters of the globe's key fishing grounds may become seriously impacted by changes in circulation?linked with global warming-as a result of the ocean's natural pumping systems fading and falling they suggest.
These natural pumps, dotted at sites across the world including the Arctic and the Mediterranean, bring nutrients to fisheries and keep them healthy by flushing out wastes and pollution.
The impacts of rising emissions on the marine world are unlikely to end there. Higher sea surface temperatures over the coming decades threaten to bleach and kill up to 80 per cent of the globe's coral reefs-major tourist attractions, natural sea defences and also nurseries for fish.
Meanwhile there is growing concern that carbon dioxide emissions will increase the acidity of seas and oceans.
This in turn may impact calcium and shell-forming marine life including corals but also tiny ones such as planktonic organisms at the base of the food chain.
I would be keen to learn if climate change is as yet an issue here in New Zealand.
Certainly, well managed marine parks and marine reserves will survive climatic impacts better than badly managed ones.
Monitoring of corals by a UNEP-led team around the main Seychelles island of Mahé has found that recovery rates are varying between five to 70 per cent after the major bleaching events of the late 1990s.
Coral reefs recovering faster are generally those living in Marine Protected Areas and coastal waters where the levels of pollution, dredging and other kinds of human-induced disturbance are considered low.
Ladies and gentlemen, your work here at Hauraki Gulf also takes on new significance in the light of decisions taken last week at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting in Bonn.
Currently less than 0.5 per cent of the world's oceans and seas are under some form of protection. In New Zealand it is a more than creditable 7.5 per cent.
The CBD meeting agreed on criteria for listing more marine areas. The 2000 Act and the subsequent experiences and policies adopted here at Hauraki can serve as a beacon for other countries and coastal communities embarking on a similar journey.
Your know how and skills should be marketed at the very least via the Internet and perhaps in international fora like the CBD and the GPA.
Congratulations on what you are achieving and congratulations on what I am sure you will achieve in the future through this cooperative approach to ensure that this marine park evolves even further into a centre of excellence for coastal water management.