Marine parks are not administered by the Department of Conservation, but are managed under the Fisheries Acts or under their own special legislation. Although marine parks established under the Fisheries Act 1983 continue to be protected, as of the Fisheries Act 1996, no new marine areas can be protected under fisheries legislation.
New Zealand has two marine parks (Mimiwhangata and Tawharanui [internal LINKS to case studies] ) under the Fisheries Act. The Hauraki Gulf Marine Park was established under its own special legislation, the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act 2000. What can we expect of a Marine Park? That depends on what rules are imposed and enforced, and these can be highly variable.
Tawharanui Marine Park
The rules for Tawharanui are similar to a Marine Reserve - no-take and no-dump - and compliance is good as it adjoins an Auckland Regional Park with lots of observers and managers. The effects are spectacular, with a substantial recovery of populations of targeted species such as snapper and crayfish. You can find out more about Tawharanui on DOC’s website.
Note that this marine park has actually “come out of the closet” and was declared an official marine reserve in September 2010 after a successful application.
Mimiwhangata Marine Park
Mimiwhangata Marine Park is the opposite of Tawharanui, with exclusion of only commercial fishing and a few extra restrictions on recreational fishing. As a “Park” it has been popular, with a higher concentration of recreational fishers and hunter-gatherers diving there. The effect is that the sizes and densities of snapper and crayfish within the Park are lower than adjoining unprotected areas. Loved nearly to death, the local community is now trying to establish it as an area with greater protection. See this Forest & Bird article for more information.
Dr Roger Grace discusses the relative successes of Tawharanui and Mimiwhangata in this video. At the 2011 EDS conference he presented this paper and associated slide show to illustrate his findings over three decades of study at these two very different incarnations of New Zealand “Marine Parks”.
Hauraki Gulf Marine Park
The Hauraki Gulf Marine Park is a bit of a misnomer, in that it includes adjoining protected lands (ie. a Maritime Park) and does not have any additional, enforceable protective rules (just those pre-existing under the Fisheries regulations and the Regional Coastal Plans).
Recent monitoring for the 2011 triennial report confirmed the continuing decline reported in 2008. It also went further and compared its current condition with its original natural condition, which most folk cannot even conceive of, and found massive degradation in both fish stocks and habitats. You can find a popular summary here and the 2011 State of the Environment reports here.