Our $100b Natural Capital Asset: the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, Tīkapa Moana, Te Moananui-ā-Toi

By . Image credit Shaun Lee.

Hauraki Gulf Forum Co-Chairs Nicola MacDonald and Toby Adams have welcomed the release of a ground-breaking natural capital valuation of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, produced for the Forum by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER).

The innovative ecosystem services valuation shows that the Gulf provides annual flows of value to New Zealanders of more than $5b a year, with an asset valuation between $40b to $100b depending on the discount rate used.

“For many of us, the Hauraki Gulf is simply invaluable” says Co-Chair Nicola MacDonald. “Te Moananui-ā-Toi is an ancestor and a taonga. It is part of who we are.”

“At the same time, we have seen well over a century of continuous damage done to the Gulf which is not priced, and not remediated. For example, flows of sediment and sewage off land choking our marine life, and dredging of kūtai and tipa beds leading to species collapse. This damage has cultural, spiritual, social, environmental, and economic consequences for all of us. Now, for the first time, we can start to put real numbers around the continued assault on this taonga.”

“We have long understood the commercial flows of value from the Gulf,” says Co-Chair Toby Adams, “for example, the annual value of commercial fishing and associated employment in the Marine Park. Same for the value of proximity to the Gulf for the real estate market. What is novel here is that we now have initial numbers around the cultural, recreational, social and well-being value we all derive. We also have some numbers around the regulating and supporting services that the Gulf is providing us with. Perhaps the biggest surprise is how well under half of the value flowing from the Gulf will ever show up in a traditional GDP valuation model.”

“This study is deliberately disruptive. It is not perfect, and there are naturally a range of assumptions used that will no doubt be hotly debated. There are also aspects where we simply lack the data to offer a full account – for example, the Gulf’s ability to sequester carbon. But it is a credit to the Forum and to NZIER to have taken this bold and important step. We hope that others around the motu will pick up this work and take it forward in their areas. This is a genuinely exciting moment for the future management of our precious natural environment.”

“To be clear,” says Co-Chair Nicola MacDonald, “this is a valuation of the Gulf as we find it today. And as our State of the Gulf reports show, it is hurting, having suffered decades of destruction. One can only imagine what a fully restored, healthy, abundant Gulf would be worth to this beautiful country of ours.”