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Auckland Islands marine reserve decision welcomed

Auckland Islands marine reserve decision welcomed

Forest and Bird welcomes the Government's approval of a marine reserve application for the seas surrounding Auckland Islands.

"This is New Zealand's second largest marine reserve and includes all the area currently in the Auckland Islands' Marine Mammal Sanctuary," said Barry Weeber, Forest and Bird's Senior Conservation Officer.

"The approval of this marine reserve also protects the part of the New Zealand Subantarctic World Heritage Area that surrounds the Auckland Islands."

Mr Weeber said the Society looked forward to the Government taking action to protect the other marine areas within the World Heritage Area, which was listed by the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO in 1998.

"The World Heritage Area covers Auckland, Snares, Campbell, Antipodes and Bounty Islands and their surrounding seas out to 12 nautical miles and recognises that these marine areas have international significance. Protecting these areas as marine reserves would give these areas the legal recognition they deserve."

The Auckland Island have a number of important conservation values said Mr Weeber. This includes the main breeding ground for the threatened Hooker's sea lion and southern right whale and an important population of yellow-eyed penguins.

Mr Weeber said it was ironic that this area includes the large Auckland Islands spider crab when, at the same time, the Ministry of Fisheries is proposing to add this crab to the quota management system to enable commercial harvesting. "The Ministry should reconsider its proposal in light of this decision."

Mr Weeber said Forest and Bird looks forward to the Government progressing other Marine Reserve applications including Waiheke Island, Stewart Island, Wellington South Coast, north Nelson, and Paraninihi.

Forest and Bird will be seeking clarification of the Minister of Conservation's comment in relation to the proposed Kaikoura marine reserve. This marine reserve was applied for by Forest and Bird over 10 years ago but has not been processed by all Ministers of Conservation since.

"We would like to see all the existing applications approved as soon as possible. Delays by successive Governments in processing these marine reserve applications is just not acceptable," says Mr Weeber.

Mr Weeber noted that the Marine Reserves Bill, currently before parliament, will establish a set timetable to process marine reserve applications. Submissions close on this Bill on Friday.

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