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Marine Reserve Opponents Mislead Public

Wellington South Coast Marine Reserve Coalition

December 4th, 2000


"Claims that a marine reserve on Wellington's south coast will stop children from building sand castles, picking up shells or otherwise using beaches are wrong and misleading," said Andrew Cutler from the Wellington South Coast Marine Reserve Coalition.

"Opponents of the proposed reserve are using scare tactics and misrepresenting the truth in an attempt to stop it going ahead. A marine reserve will actually be a magnet for Wellington children wanting to look at rock pools and marine life."

Fourteen marine reserves are in operation around New Zealand. The Leigh Marine Reserve, north of Auckland, attracts over 200,000 visitors every year. In 25 years not a single child has been prosecuted for building a sand castle or picking up a shell.

"In the last three years more than 10,000 children have visited the Marine Education Centre near Island Bay. If a reserve goes ahead, thousands of children in school groups, or with their families, are going to visit the coast to explore rock pools and look at marine life."

"Opponents of the proposed reserve are circulating information that is wrong. They are scaring people unnecessarily. Most people won't even know a reserve is in place - because it won't affect them. Other than recreational and commercial fishing - most other activities will go on unchanged. "

The Marine Reserve Act states that marine reserves are protected as far as possible in their natural state. However, the Minister of Conservation can set conditions on any Marine Reserve, including provisions to ensure that existing recreational activities are not interfered with.

"It hasn't been necessary for the Minister to put conditions on any other marine reserve to specifically allow children to build sand castles or pick up shells - but it could be done. We would support such conditions if the community considers them necessary."

"As the applicants, we have also told the City and Regional Council's that we support conditions that will allow normal maintenance of the area to continue. We don't want a reserve to interfere with the Council's activities such as beach grooming, maintenance of seawalls, etc."

Mr Cutler also denied claims that there had been a lack of consultation on the proposed Marine Reserve.

"Over 18,000 brochures have been distributed to households in the Island Bay area since the proposal was first made in 1991. We have undertaken three rounds of consultation so far, including four surveys of the community. It is misleading for opponents to claim we haven't consulted."

The City Council has also undertaken its own surveys of attitudes towards a south coast marine reserve. In 1997 a scientific survey of 650 Wellington residents found that eighty-six percent strongly agreed or agreed that a marine reserve should be established on the south coast. Only five percent disagreed with establishing a reserve.

"It is clear that the vast majority of people in Wellington want a marine reserve. It will be good for children, good for the community and good for the environment."

Submissions on the proposed marine reserve close on December 18th. Submissions can be made to Taputeranga Marine Reserve, C/- PO Box 4183 Wellington. A copy of the full application document can be seen at any public library, or on the internet at www.forest-bird.org.nz.

ENDS

For further information contact: Andrew Cutler - 021 44 99 32

Fact Sheet - South Coast Marine Reserve

1. What are opponents of a marine reserve claiming?

Opponents are claiming that:

* A marine reserve will stop children from playing on the beaches at Island Bay, including building sand castles, picking up shells, fossicking in rock pools, tossing stones into the sea.

This is not correct. The Minister of Conservation can specifically allow for such activities. Up until now it has not been necessary to do this.

The act is designed to prevent people intentionally removing marine life. For example, backing a trailer up to a beach and filling it with sand, diving for paua, or fishing. It is not intended to stop people from enjoying a day at the beach, collecting shells, etc.

* A marine reserve will prevent the City Council maintaining the beach, thereby making it unsafe for swimming.

Untrue. The Marine Reserve Coalition supports having conditions on the reserve that allow the City Council to maintain the beach.

* A marine reserve will ban boats from mooring in Island Bay.

Untrue. The Regional Council will still have the right to allow moorings in Island Bay. It would also be possible to moor a diving raft in the bay.

* A marine reserve would ban community activities such as the "Big Dig" on the beach.

Untrue. Such activities can be allowed in the conditions set by the Minister of Conservation. The Marine Reserve Coalition would support such conditions.

* A marine reserve will stop children from fishing in the Bay.

Correct. The Marine Reserve Coalition opposes any fishing in Island Bay. We believe the vast majority of children enjoy looking at living creatures - that's why they go to zoo's not taxidermists!

Over 10,000 children have visited the Marine Education Centre in Island Bay. A marine reserve will attract children by the hundreds and thousands to look at the marine life.

* A Marine Reserve will stop families and children from collecting shellfish.

Correct. Much of the shellfish and rockpool life has already been taken from the south coast. A marine reserve will help them recover - and children will then be able to enjoy exploring the pools. Children will be encouraged to explore the rockpools and the coast - but not to damage or take marine life.

2. What will be the benefits of a marine reserve?

Having a marine reserve on the edge of the capital city will be a huge recreational, scientific and conservation boost for Wellington.

Fishing stocks on the south coast are severely depleted. Even recreational fishers have said that the area is a "fish desert" - and the rockpools and shellfish are disappearing fast. The coast cannot sustain the current level of commercial and recreational fishing.

Marine reserves are popular recreational areas. Leigh Marine Reserve attracts more than 200,000 visitors a year. Already the Island Bay Marine Education Centre attracts thousands of visitors. The area is a popular diving spot. Families, divers and local residents will benefit from having a rich marine area on their doorstep.

From a scientific perspective, the area has been under study for the past 30 years. 87 books, theses and scientific papers have already been written about the area. Creating a marine reserve will increase scientific interest from the cluster of institutions nearby - including NIWA, Victoria University, Crown Research Institutes and Te Papa.

2. Will a Marine Reserve stop the City Council or the Regional Council from undertaking normal maintenance activities (such as beach cleaning), or from developing infrastructure such as seawalls?

No. The activities of local council's can be specifically allowed for when the Minister of Conservation approves a Marine Reserve. The Marine Reserve Coalition supports allowing the City and Regional Council's right to maintain the coast. The building of any new structure will be subject to normal resource consent processes.

3. What do the Wellington Public Think of a Reserve?

In June 1997 the Wellington City Council undertook a public opinion survey of 650 residents to determine their views on a range of new projects and proposals.

The Council asked:

Should there be a range of marine protected areas, including a marine reserve on Wellington's south coast?

Strongly Support Support Neutral Strongly Against 55 % 31% 9% 5%

* 3. What does the Marine Reserve Act actually say?

Section 3 (1) of the act states that:

marine reserves shall be so administered and maintained under the provisions of this Act that-- (a) They shall be preserved as far as possible in their natural state: (b) The marine life of the reserves shall as far as possible be protected and preserved: (c) The value of the marine reserves as the natural habitat of marine life shall as far as possible be maintained: (d) Subject to the provisions of this Act and to the imposition of such conditions and restrictions as may be necessary for the preservation of the marine life or for the welfare in general of the reserves, the public shall have freedom of access and entry to the reserves, so that they may enjoy in full measure the opportunity to study, observe, and record marine life in its natural habitat.

Section 6 (1) of the act states:

The Minister may approve statements of general policy for the implementation of this Act in any area or areas; and may from time to time amend any such statement in the light of changing circumstances or increased knowledge.

The words "as far as possible" in section 3 (1) a,b & c indicate that interaction between the public and the environment must be taken into account when managing the reserve. Together with Section 6 (1) that allows the minister to make statements of general policy, such as imposing specific conditions of a reserve, it is clear that there is no intention to prevent people using the beaches.

Section 3 (1) d makes it clear that public access to reserves is essential. The Marine Reserve Coalition supports allowing children to play on the beach, explore rock pools, go swimming, etc. We support the Minister making specific provisions for these activities.

Barry Weeber Senior Researcher Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society PO Box 631 Wellington New Zealand Phone 64-4-385-7374 Fax 64-4-385-7373 www.forest-bird.org.nz


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