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New marine reserve off Waiheke Island

New marine reserve off Waiheke Island

Te Matuku Bay off Waiheke Island is to become New Zealand's newest marine reserve, Conservation Minister Chris Carter announced today.

The reserve spans about 700 hectares from Te Matuku Bay out to Passage Rock islet, and contains a large estuary rare in the Auckland area and under represented among New Zealand's protected marine areas.

"This beautiful Waiheke bay has been a top priorty for marine protection since 1988. It contains an estuary and marine habitats of national significance, and best of all it is close to New Zealand's largest city, and off shore from a significant recreation area," Mr Carter said.

"The marine reserve will adjoin protected land on the foreshore in Te Matuku Bay. It completes the preservation of a unique sequence of habitats from indigenous forest on land to fresh-and-salt-water wetlands, mangrove forest, intertidal mudflats rich in wading birds and mussel beds, and the finally deep water marine environments of the Tamaki Straits.

Mr Carter said he hoped the Waiheke reserve would be a tourism success in the same way the Leigh and Poor Knights marine reserves had been. The Leigh reserve, for instance, got over 200,000 visitors a year.

Swimming, snorkelling, scientific exploration and diving will all be permitted inside the reserve," Mr Carter said.

"A small oyster farm within its boundary will also continue. Fishing will not but the boom in marine life that typically occurs after a marine environment is protected should enhance fish stocks in the numerous fishing areas outside the reserve."

Mr Carter said the reserve had received the approval of all three ministers required to protect it – conservation, fisheries and transport.

"This is the second marine reserve created by the Government this year following the Auckland Islands Marine Reserve announced two months ago. I hope by the end of the year we will have decisions on a further four marine reserves.

"At present just 0.1% of our inshore areas are protected compared to almost a third of our land," Mr Carter said.

He expressed his thanks to the Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society, the applicant for the reserve.

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