Marine Reserves bill has first reading
Marine Reserves bill has first reading
A new era in marine conservation will result from the enactment of the Marine Reserves Bill according to the Minister of Conservation Chris Carter.
The Bill had its first reading in Parliament last night and has now been referred to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee for consideration.
Mr Carter says the Bill will replace the 30-year-old Marine Reserves Act. It is the culmination of two years of consultation and policy development.
“Marine protection is a government priority but we need to modernise marine reserve legislation to ensure it is in alignment with present day concepts of biodiversity protection.”
“This Bill is one of the most significant advances in conservation legislation since DoC was established in 1987. It will facilitate the protection of both special and representative marine areas. Rare black corals warrant protection in marine reserves but so do more typical marine communities, such as mangrove-lined estuaries.”
“A fundamental principle of the Bill is that people will have free access to enjoy these protected areas as long as the natural values are not harmed.”
Mr Carter says new law is necessary to help the Government meet its target of having 10 percent of New Zealand’s marine environment protected by 2010.
He says the lengthy processes of the current Marine Reserves Act has caused considerable frustration and led to significant delays in having marine reserves declared, despite proposals which fully meet the criteria for reserve status.
“In the 30 years since the Marine Reserves Act became law, only 16 marine reserves have been created. Those around the North and South Islands average just 1000 hectares each, and in total cover just 0.1 percent of the coastal sea. By contrast, we protect about 30 percent of mainland New Zealand in national parks and reserves. It is time to pay more attention to marine protection.”
The Bill aims to address a number of other deficiencies in the existing legislation. It makes provision for recognising Treaty of Waitangi obligations, it links up with more recent environmental legislation, and it will allow marine reserves to be created within the exclusive economic zone.
The Bill sets out clear processes for establishing marine reserves. The aim is to provide a well-structured and efficient process that provides meaningful opportunities for public, Maori and stakeholder participation, as well as clear guidance and timelines for decisions.
The only Ministerial consent required to establish a marine reserve will be that of the Minister of Conservation. The existing concurrence roles of the Ministers of Fisheries and Transport have been replaced by a mandatory requirement that those Ministers and the Ministers of Defence, Energy and Foreign Affairs and Trade (for reserves in the EEZ) be consulted.
Decision-making under the legislation will be guided by a list of principles which include maintaining or restoring marine life to a natural state, the need to protect historic features, the importance of undisturbed areas for research and education, and provision for public use and enjoyment.
“The Bill clearly sets out what people can and cannot do within a marine reserve,” says Mr Carter.
“A key feature is that fishing – whether commercial, recreational or customary – will not be allowed, as research has shown that a ‘no-take’ policy is critical to ensuring that an area is protected in a natural state.”
The Bill provides opportunities for local support and involvement in managing marine reserves. Local authorities, tangata whenua, local interest groups and management boards can be appointed as day-to-day managers instead of the Department of Conservation.
Mr Carter said he expected the Bill to generate a lot of interest and he encouraged people with an interest in the marine environment to make submissions on the Bill once it was advertised for public submissions by the select committee.