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Marine Reserve A Jewel In Wellington's Crown

"The Taputeranga Marine Reserve will be a jewel in Wellington's crown," said South Coast Marine Reserve Coalition spokesperson Andrew Cutler today following the announcement by the Minister of Conservation, the Hon. Sandra Lee, that she had approved the creation of a marine reserve on Wellington's south coast.

"The Minister of Conservation's decision is a magnificent gift to Wellingtonians. The reserve will protect a small but special part of the marine environment forever. It's like having a national park 15 minutes from the centre of town."

Mr Cutler said that with the creation of the marine reserve Wellington could boast an unmatched set of ecological attractions.

"The Taputeranga Marine Reserve is the marine "sister" of the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary. Where else in the world can you choose between visiting a marine reserve, or a mainland island - both only 15 minutes from the city centre?"

The area protected is a unique stretch of coastline. Three ocean currents mix in the area, meaning there is a unique variety of fish and marine plants - some of whom are at the limit of their distribution. Over 180 fish species are recorded from the area, and an unusually large number of seaweed species.

Another important factor is that the area has been the subject of a large amount of scientific study, and that three major marine research facilities are situated nearby - Victoria University's Marine Laboratory, NIWA and Te Papa.

Mr Cutler said that the Coalition knew that some fishers, and members of the Island Bay community would be disappointed with the decision.

"We would like to appeal to those who have opposed the reserve to get involved in its management. In other parts of the country opponents have put aside their differences and successfully worked together to educate the community, prevent poaching and manage the reserves. Members of the coalition sincerely hope we can do the same here in Wellington."

Mr Cutler said that the decision was the culmination of ten years consultation, and the work of dozens of people.

"It has been a huge job. It has taken thousands of hours work, and cost something like $40,000 to achieve this reserve. I know there will be a lot of people celebrating today."

Throughout the application process the Marine Reserve Coalition has been supported by the Wellington Branch of the Forest and Bird Protection Society.

"The bulk of the financial support has come from the Society, and I would like to thank the thousands of members who have directly and indirectly supported the work over the years."

ENDS

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Investigations into establishing a reserve in the area were begun by the Department of Conservation in 1988. In 1991 local residents, divers and conservationists formed the South Coast Marine Reserve Coalition and have continued to promote the proposal since that time. The Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand (Inc). is co-applicant.

The application document was based on extensive consultation with iwi, the local community, business, recreational and commercial fishers and local authorities. Over 18,000 brochures were distributed to households in the Island Bay, Houghton Bay and Owhiro Bay area during three rounds of consultation since the proposal was first made in 1991. A 1997 public opinion survey undertaken by Wellington City Council found that eighty-six percent of residents strongly agreed or agreed that a marine reserve should be established on the south coast. Only five percent disagreed with establishing a reserve.

The area being proposed for a reserve runs from an un-named bay just west of Owhiro Bay Quarry eastward to Te Raekaihau Point, a distance of about four kilometres. The total area of the reserve will be approximately 970 hectares. The proposed name for the reserve is Taputeranga, after the Island in Island Bay.

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