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Revision of Marine Reserves legislation announced

30 January 2002

Media Statement

Revision of Marine Reserves legislation announced

Conservation Minister Sandra Lee today announced that a Bill overhauling the Marine Reserves Act would be the most significant advance in conservation legislation within the last 10 years, when it is introduced to Parliament this year.

Ms Lee said that the Marine Reserves Bill 2002 will help give effect to the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy by providing a new purpose for marine reserves focussing on the protection of marine biodiversity.

“Currently the legislation only provides for the protection of marine areas for scientific study. The Bill will enable the preservation and protection of marine areas for the conservation of marine biodiversity,” Ms Lee said.

“Marine reserves have proven to be extremely effective ways of protecting and restoring marine life. They generally enjoy strong public support and local critics of specific proposals have often been won over as the benefits of marine protection are realised.

“Enabling people to enjoy marine reserves without causing harm will be a key provision in the bill. It will also allow marine reserves to be established in the Exclusive Economic Zone, whereas they can currently only be set up inside the 12 nautical mile limit.

“The Bill will also streamline the process of applying for and approving reserves. Currently, the process is too cumbersome and takes too long.

"The new system for creating marine reserves will be rigorous and will provide for substantial public participation. Reasonable time limits will be set for each stage of the application process."

Ms Lee said the Bill would specify that indigenous marine life within marine reserves would enjoy complete protection with all new marine reserves being ‘no-take’ areas.

The only ministerial consent required for the establishment of marine reserves would be that of the Minister of Conservation. Consultation will be required with the Ministers of Fisheries, Energy, Transport, and with the Minister of Foreign Affairs for reserve proposals in the open ocean.

The matters considered by the Conservation Minister would include those currently considered by the Minister of Fisheries.

Ms Lee said she was hopeful that decisions on up to 12 marine reserve applications could be made within the next 18 months. She said the Department of Conservation would have five applications ready for decision-making by July. These would proceed under the existing legislation.

Ms Lee said staff at DOC, the Ministry of Fisheries and the Ministry for the Environment were also developing, with the involvement of other key interest groups, a marine protected areas strategy that will co-ordinate marine conservation measures.

“The benefits of marine reserves are being increasingly recognised internationally with a notable research article in Science magazine last year demonstrating that fisheries in the Caribbean and Florida have become more productive since marine reserves were established in adjacent areas”, said Ms Lee.

"Once introduced, the Marine Reserves Bill will be referred to a parliamentary select committee for consideration and public submissions will be called for."


Background Information

Why the Marine Reserves Act was reviewed
The review was prompted by four main problems with the current Act:
- The purpose does not reflect the objectives of the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy, nor does it reflect the main reason people now propose and value reserves for is their marine life;
- It provides no guidelines for how Treaty obligations would be met;
- It does not include appropriate linkages with recent marine management legislation; and
- Some timeframes and processes are vague or not specified which has contributed to significant delays in having decisions made on reserve applications.

DOC distributed 5400 discussion documents (Tapui Taimoana: Reviewing the Marine Reserves Act 1971), held 32 hui and public meetings, and received 259 submissions.

The submission analysis is available on DOC’s web site at
under “Whats-New”.

Co-ordinating with the Oceans Policy process
The Government’s long term goals, outcomes, objectives and targets for marine biodiversity are set out in the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy (NZBS). This was developed to give effect to the International Convention on Biological Diversity. One of the priority actions in the NZBS is to “Review the Marine Reserves Act 1971 to better provide for the protection of marine biodiversity, including extending its jurisdiction to protect marine biodiversity within and beyond the 12 mile limit”.

The NZBS also identified the need for an overarching, co-ordinated marine management regime. This is being developed through the Oceans Policy. Cabinet established a group of Ministers to be responsible for managing the successful development of the Oceans Policy. These Ministers are also responsible for co-ordinating operational reviews, including that of the Marine Reserves Act, in a way that is consistent with the successful development of the Oceans Policy. These Ministers considered key issues in the Marine Reserves Act review.

Proposed new purpose and principles

- New purpose focusing on biodiversity

The purpose will be to: Preserve and protect marine areas for the conservation of marine biodiversity.
Reserves will focus on sites that are:
(a) Representative examples of the full range of marine communities and ecosystems that are common or widespread;
(b) Outstanding, rare, distinctive, or internationally or nationally important.

- No fishing to ensure effective protection

Marine reserves will not allow fishing of any kind.
Ways of allowing some take were looked into but were considered impractical.
Experience in NZ and internationally is that “no-take” reserves provide significantly better protection for marine life, and are a better way to increase abundance, diversity and productivity.
Marine reserves will therefore provide the “top end” of biodiversity protection in the sea, similar to national parks and ecological areas on land.

- Reserves in the EEZ

Marine reserves will now be able to be set up in the EEZ as well as the territorial sea.
Any reserves in the EEZ will reflect New Zealand’s rights and obligations under international law.

- People able to use reserves

People will be free to use and enjoy reserves as far as possible for recreational, scientific, educational, and matauranga Maori (Maori traditional knowledge) purposes, where this does not compromise the conservation of marine biodiversity.

- Historic heritage

Marine reserves will not be set up specifically to protect marine archaeological or historic sites, or waahi tapu.
Providing protection for such sites will be included in policy development work for the Oceans Policy.

- Marine reserves and other marine protected areas

A combination of tools will be used to achieve the NZBS target of protecting 10% of New Zealand’s marine environment by 2010.
Marine reserves would protect outstanding, rare, distinctive, nationally or internationally important sites, and sites that together would include examples of the full range typical marine ecosystems.
Appropriate mechanisms under other laws, such as closed fishing areas under the Fisheries Act, would add other typical sites to make up the 10% target, and to help achieve an effective network.

Recognising Treaty obligations

- Treaty section

The Conservation Act currently requires that the Department must give effect to the principles of the Treaty when administering and interpreting the Marine Reserves Act. The new Bill will include a Treaty section.

- Customary fishing

The Minister of Conservation will be required to take account of the effects of a proposed reserve on customary fishing and the relationship of tangata whenua with the site, among other factors. The Minister of Fisheries must be consulted on the possible implications for customary fishing and the Fisheries Deed of Settlement.

- Consult-ation with tangata whenua

The Bill will require tangata whenua to be consulted from an early stage of developing reserve proposals, and formally once an application is notified.
- Manage-ment

There will be clear requirements for tangata whenua and the local community to be represented on any reserve committees.

An improved application process

- Removing barriers

Barriers to who can apply for reserves will be removed. Instead, the Bill will contain criteria that an application must meet before it would be notified for consultation.

- Meetings

After submissions are made, meetings will be held to seek to resolve concerns.

- Time limits

Reasonable time limits will be set for each stage of consultation and decision-making.

- Indepen-dent report

If DOC is the applicant, an independent audit of the process must also be sought.

- Minister’s decision-making process

There will be a more streamlined and robust decision-making process, and clear accountability will be with the Minister of Conservation.

The public consultation process, and a requirement for the Minister to formally consult with the Ministers of Fisheries, Energy, Transport, and Foreign Affairs, will provide the Minister with information on potential implications of a proposed reserve.

The Minister will then have to decide whether the proposed reserve was consistent with the Act, whether it was in the public interest; and whether there was an adverse effect that would warrant the reserve not being approved.
The issues to be considered will include customary fishing and the relationship of tangata whenua with the site, commercial and recreational fishing, other recreational activities, economic use and development, adjacent interests in land, navigation rights, scientific study, education and matauranga moana (Maori traditional knowledge of the sea).

The Ministers of Fisheries and Transport will no longer be required to agree to a reserve application before it can be approved.
The matters considered by the Conservation Minister would include those currently considered by the Minister of Fisheries.

Managing marine reserves

- Public involvement

DOC will manage reserves in most circumstances. However there will be more and clearer opportunities for local involvement in management.

This will include:
- A clear process for establishing Reserve Committees to provide advice and develop management plans. These committees will include representatives of tangata whenua, the local community, and organisations with a particular interest in the reserve.
- Allowing the day to day management of reserves to be devolved to others in certain circumstances.

- Concession system

A concession system, similar to that used in land reserves, will be phased in over two years.
This will allow the environmental effects of various activities to be properly monitored and managed.
Concessions won’t affect the public’s right to free access to reserves.

- Reviews

The Bill will include a process for revoking reserve status.
It will be similar to that for scientific and nature reserves on land, and require the Minister to be satisfied that the reserve no longer meets the purpose of the Act.

When a marine reserve is set up, the Minister may also require a review to be done after 25 years of whether the reserve continues to meet its objectives.


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