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Carter Speech on Auckland Is. Reserve

Chriss Carter Speech on announcement of Auckland Islands Marine Reserve

(Speech delivered by the Minister on shores of Enderby Island – one of the Auckland Islands.)

After the recent voyage some of you may not be feeling warmly disposed towards the sea, but I hope you will still be able to join with me in celebrating some great news.

I am announcing today that a marine reserve has been approved for the sea surrounding the Auckland Islands. The reserve has the approval of the three Ministers required: Fisheries Minister Pete Hodgson, Transport Minister Paul Swain and my approval as Minister of Conservation.

This reserve will give the marine environments and all their marine life a level of protection equivalent to that given to the Auckland Islands themselves. The marine reserve will be part of the Subantarctic World Heritage Area and thus receive international recognition as one of the world’s most ecologically important natural areas. As you have learned on this trip, this is an extraordinary place teeming with life, and richly deserving of protection. The sea within the marine reserve is one of the few remaining near-pristine marine environments in New Zealand. This reserve will not only protect relatively shallow inshore areas up to 100 m deep but also some deep ocean environments down to 3000 m deep.

The reserve includes important recruitment and spawning grounds for key marine species such as southern blue whiting and arrow squid. Scampi are also abundant on the continental shelf around the islands. The range and diversity of marine invertebrates is outstanding. One notable species is the massive Auckland Island spider crab.

By protecting this area of the southern ocean from future exploitation, we are not only safeguarding fish, squid and giant crabs but also the seabirds and marine mammals that depend on this marine ecosystem for food. The Auckland Islands support an abundance of seabirds and are the primary breeding ground of the New Zealand sea lion. 30% of the world’s population of hoiho or the yellow eyed penguin breed here. All these species are totally reliant on the surrounding sea for food.

The Auckland Islands are also the primary calving and breeding grounds for the southern right whale in New Zealand, a species once almost hunted to extinction and now slowly recovering. The marine reserve provides additional protection for marine mammals by ensuring the protection of the entire marine food chain within the reserve boundaries.

The new reserve will stretch for 12 nautical miles around the islands out to the boundary of the territorial sea. The total area being protected is 484,000 hectares, making it the second biggest marine reserve in New Zealand.

I am optimistic that confirmation of this reserve breaks a logjam in marine reserve applications that has so frustrated marine scientists, conservationists, local communities and, dare I say, a good number of politicians.

This is the first marine reserve announced in four years. By the end of this year, I am hopeful that we will have decisions on at least another five applications including proposals at Waiheke Island, Stewart Island, the Wellington South coast, north Nelson and the Volkner Rocks in the Bay of Plenty. Long stalled applications for the Nuggets coast in Otago and for the Kaikoura Peninsula coast that have become legally stale because of years of inaction will be revitalized by the Department of Conservation in consultation with the local community, tangata whenua, fishing interests, conservation organizations and marine scientists.

As Conservation Minister, marine conservation is one of my top priorities.

I have made that plain in my expectations of the Department of Conservation, and I invite the public to measure my performance by it as well. I believe that 2003 will be a memorable year for marine conservation.

Labour's commitment is to protect 10% of our seas by 2010. This target is one of the key goals of the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy. It is also a target that enjoys wide public support. I was greatly encouraged that a greater emphasis on marine protection was one of the priority concerns that emerged from the initial public consultation on the Oceans Policy. That policy will be further advanced this year and will help ensure better integration of marine ecosystem management and enhance the opportunities for sustainable management and protection of marine environments.

Late last year I was privileged to take the Marine Reserves Bill through its first reading. This bill, which is the most important piece of conservation legislation in over 10 years, is a priority for enactment this year. I am looking forward to its consideration by the Local Government and Environment Select Committee. The bill will improve the processes for establishing marine reserves and broaden the purpose beyond the scientific focus of the current act.

Marine conservation has got off to a flying start in 2003.

I am delighted that I can make today's announcement on the heels of the enhanced protection of Maui's dolphin announced last week.

Maui's dolphin is one of only four mammals found only in New Zealand. It is one of the rarest dolphins in the world and a jewel of our seas.

Unfortunately set nets were killing Maui's dolphin and I am pleased that Fisheries Minister Pete Hodgson decided, after consulting with me, to ban the use of them in the key habitats. People everywhere now have their fingers crossed that the number of Maui's dolphins will gradually rise from the perilously low population that remains.

Internationally, New Zealand will this year further develop our leading role in marine conservation. We will be at the July meeting in Germany of the International Whaling Commission. Our new IWC commissioner Sir Geoffrey Palmer and I will continue the excellent advocacy of our predecessors, Jim McLay and Sandra Lee.

While the southern right whale will benefit from the creation of this marine reserve, the recovery of world whale populations remains under threat from the determination of some countries to resume widespread commercial whaling.

2003 will also see a greater focus on Antarctic marine protection.

The Government’s Statement of Strategic Interests for Antarctica – adopted last year – gives emphasis to the protection of marine ecosystems and in particular to the Ross Sea. I have visited Antarctica and learnt firsthand from scientists of their concerns for the protection of this little studied but critical marine environment. Labour’s conservation manifesto undertook to ‘advocate the development of a network of specially protected marine areas around Antarctica, especially in the Ross Sea’.

This will be a priority for my department working closely with MFAT.

2003 will also be an important year for seabirds. New Zealand has led the world in protecting the island breeding grounds of seabirds. Their island homes enjoy the highest levels of legal protection and this has been backed up by exceptionally dedicated efforts of departmental staff and others to rid these islands of introduced animal pests. With the eradication of rats from Campbell Island last year, the next ambitious goal will be to rid the main Auckland Islands of pigs and cats. This project is only in its planning stages and has a long way to go but I am hopeful that it will proceed within the next five years. It will be a major boost for seabird conservation by reclaiming long lost breeding areas for albatrosses and petrels.

2003 will also see the adoption of a national plan of action on seabirds aimed at drastically reducing if not eliminating the kills of seabirds in New Zealand fisheries. The draft plan is currently being considered by the Minister of Fisheries and myself before being released to stakeholders for their consideration. For over 10 years, conservationists have been pressing for greater action on seabird bycatch problems. I have been encouraged by the positive response from the New Zealand fishing industry working in partnership with my department on the development of innovative technical solutions to this worrying problem.

The annual kill of seabirds by fisheries in NZ waters is too high. It is thought by some to be as many as 15,000 birds a year.

It is important to our international credibility that we afford our seabirds practical protection as well as legal protection. New Zealand is a signatory and a leading advocate for the Albatross and Petrel Convention under the auspices of the United Nations. The Minister of Fisheries and I intend making real progress on seabird protection this year.

In Chinese culture 2003 is the year of the goat. I intend it to also be the year of marine conservation.

Thank you.

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