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Govt's oceans plan sinks the environment

27 June 2008

Govt's oceans plan sinks the environment

The Labour Government has yet again let down New Zealanders and the environment this time by back-tracking on its promise to protect New Zealand's oceans.

Today the Government announced a plan to regulate some activity in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), but this is a far cry from the "integrated and comprehensive framework" giving effect to the "vision of healthy oceans, wisely managed" that they promised the country last election, Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons.

The Greens obtained under the Official Information Act a 2003 draft of the Oceans Policy, which better balanced the protection of the oceans with resource demands. Today's announced plan bears no resemblance to that document.

"The Minister this morning admitted that the Government's intention is now primarily to provide greater certainty for industries that operate in the EEZ - it is disappointing that protection of the marine environment has taken a back seat.

"Despite the Greens' relief in finally seeing a tangible proposal after seven years of delay, what is proposed is a massive back-down on the Government's election promise.

"Our oceans are being pillaged by overfishing, precious marine mammals and birds are being slaughtered as by-catch, the sea-floor is being bulldozed by bottom-trawlers, unique seamounts are being demolished for chemicals and minerals, and demand for oil and gas raise the spectre of a large scale oil-spill disaster. Most of these activities are ignored by this plan.

"What is needed is an integrated policy that considers the cumulative effects of all marine activities, and one that fully protects sensitive areas and marine species and ecosystems - like what was promised. For example, it is embarrassing that we still have no marine reserves in the EEZ.

"Yet again the Ministry tasked with protecting the Environment has been beaten into proposing a policy that is at best environmentally weak, and at worst facilitates more exploitation of our precious oceans," Ms Fitzsimons says.

ENDS

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