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South Wellington marine reserve decision welcomed

6 December 2006 - Wellington

South Wellington marine reserve decision welcomed

Forest & Bird has welcomed the Government’s announcement today approving the Kupe Kevin Smith Marine Reserve on the South Wellington coast.

"Forest & Bird applauds the establishment of this 800-hectare marine reserve, for which we made a joint application with the South Coast Marine Reserve Coalition in 1992," Forest & Bird Wellington Branch spokesman Andrew Cutler says.

"This is a bold initiative which will have significant benefits for the marine environment and people's enjoyment of the Wellington South Coast," Forest & Bird Conservation Advocate Kirstie Knowles says. "We have been campaigning for over 10 years for this marine reserve so it is fantastic news that it has been approved."

Forest & Bird is pleased to see that the name of the reserve will commemorate the marine conservation work of Kevin Smith. He was one of New Zealand's leading conservationists and a champion of the reserve until he died last year. Kevin Smith regularly dived on the Wellington south coast. He was Forest & Bird's Conservation Director prior to working as a senior advisor to Conservation Minister Chris Carter and his predecessor in the post, Sandra Lee.

"A marine reserve so close to the heart of the capital will be an added attraction for the many people keen to see the marine environment in its natural state," Kirstie Knowles says. "Marine reserves are some of the most popular natural areas for New Zealanders to visit. Each year over 250,000 people visit the Goat Island marine reserve at Leigh, north of Auckland.

"Everyone wins with marine reserves. They safeguard the structure and function of a healthy marine environment. Given the opportunity they can also help restore fish populations, attract recreational visitors and provide for scientific research and education," Kirstie Knowles says.

The new marine reserve includes a variety of marine habitats, including rocky reefs and kelp forests, and is a haven for marine species including seahorses, colourful sea slugs (nudibranchs), spotted shags and reef herons. Spectacular marine wildlife recorded in the area include royal albatrosses, common dolphins, New Zealand fur seals and orca.

Forest & Bird Conservation Advocate Kirstie Knowles says Forest & Bird is also looking forward to the Government progressing other marine reserve applications including Great Barrier (Aotea) Island in the Hauraki Gulf, Dan Rogers in Akaroa Harbour and The Nuggets on the Catlins coast, and passing a new Marine Reserves Bill next year.

For more information on Forest & Bird’s marine reserve campaign please see: www.forestandbird.org.nz/Marine/reserves.asp

Notes The benefits of marine reserves to biodiversity, the marine environment and marine science have been well proven after more than 25 years of research.

Currently the proportion of mainland New Zealand's coastal waters in this form of protection is less than one percent, yet about 30 percent of land is protected for conservation purposes.

Much of New Zealand’s current marine management does not provide adequately for an ecosystem-based approach, for example the quota management system is single species focused. Research is showing that marine reserves are an essential part of a sustainable marine management regime. At present, less than one percent of the coast is designated as marine reserves.

The Government currently has a target of 10 percent of the marine environment in marine protected areas by 2010. There is an international scientific consensus that 20 percent of the marine environment should be protected.

A March 2005 opinion poll for WWF found that 95 percent of New Zealanders wanted more marine reserves.

Conservationist Kevin Smith started his conservation career in 1976 while studying for a doctorate on the kahikatea forest ecology on the West Coast. Seeing the ruin of kahikatea forests through clearfelling, he abandoned his studies to become a full time conservation campaigner and funded it by possum trapping. He became Forest & Bird's first field officer in 1984 on the West Coast and Conservation Director of Forest & Bird in 1989. He lived on the Wellington South Coast and was a strong advocate for the new marine reserve. He left Forest & Bird in 2000 to become an advisor to then Minister of Conservation Sandra Lee.

Forest & Bird will contribute funds to a memorial for Kevin Smith on the South Wellington coast.

ENDS

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