“To put it very simply, marine spatial planning is a process where everyone that uses the sea meets together to allocate areas for protection and use,” said the group chair and Chief of Staff of the Office of the Prime Minister, Bredina Drollet.
“The areas for protection and use are then depicted on a map,” she explained.
Activities that will be guided by the marine spatial planning procedures include fishing, tours, water sports, shipping, aquaculture, research and seabed minerals exploration and extraction.
As a start, the Cook Islands has established marine protected areas extending 50 nautical miles from around each island. No large-scale commercial fishing or seabed minerals activity is permitted within these protected areas.
Drollet says the rest of the EEZ needs to be zoned and procedures for this must be developed which will outline the steps to be taken when engaging in marine spatial planning.
“The procedures will ensure the availability and use of all data that should be used to decide on the allocation of space.
“They will also ensure the public are consulted and will outline how different users can come together to allocate the use of marine space, including the process to call upon a mediator when there are conflicts.”
Drollet says all relevant government agencies must participate in the planning process, with the Marae Moana Act providing the framework for these agencies to work together.
The Marae Moana Council has also asked that the procedures be prepared by December this year.
“We will be drafting the procedures and consulting groups at the same time,” says Drollet.
She says the Technical Advisory Group will develop the procedures in accordance with the Marae Moana Policy.
The policy includes the principles of protection, conservation and restoration, sustainable use to maximise benefits, the precautionary principle, community participation, transparency and accountability, integrated management, fostering a culture of investigation and research, ecosystem-based management and sustainable financing.
The Marae Moana Technical Advisory Group is comprised of the Heads of Ministry of the Office of the Prime Minister, National Environment Service, Ministry of Marine Resources, Seabed Minerals Authority and the Ministry of Transport, as well as their technical advisors.
Representatives from the House of Ariki, Koutu Nui, and non-government organisations with expertise in science and social welfare are also included.