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Underwater Association welcomes marine reserve

New Zealand Underwater Association welcomes marine reserve

The New Zealand Underwater Association welcomes the creation of the Auckland Islands Marine Reserve. The reserve was announced today by the Minister of Conservation, Chris Carter, from one of the remote subantarctic islands in the Auckland Islands group.

The Auckland Islands Marine Reserve is the first marine reserve to be created since the 1990's. Located approximately 460 kilometres south of the South Island, the reserve protects many rare and endangered native species, adding to the protection of the Auckland Islands Marine Mammal Sanctuary.

"The New Zealand Underwater Association supports the creation of a representative network of marine reserves over ten percent of New Zealand's marine area", says the Association's Environmental Coordinator, Karli Thomas. "The Auckland Islands Marine Reserve is a step towards that goal".

In the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy 2000, the government signalled their intention to protect ten percent of New Zealand's marine area by the year 2010. "In the three years that have passed since then, we were beginning to wonder whether the Government had forgotten that commitment", Ms Thomas says.

Eleven marine reserve applications have been sitting on Ministers' desks awaiting approval. Some have been waiting for over a decade. "This is a waste of the years of effort that community groups put into marine reserve applications - much of which is done on a voluntary basis", Ms Thomas says.

The New Zealand Underwater Association is currently developing a marine reserve proposal for the waters around Tiritiri Matangi Island and the Whangaparaoa Peninsula in the Hauraki Gulf. "We're in the early stages of our proposal, but we would be bitterly disappointed if the Government took years to make a decision on a marine reserve application we've worked this hard to prepare", Ms Thomas says.

While the Auckland Islands Marine Reserve is a wonderful addition to a network of marine reserves, more reserves are urgently needed in accessible coastal areas, the New Zealand Underwater Association believes.

New Zealand's two largest marine reserves - the Kermadec Islands and Auckland Islands Marine Reserves - are hundreds of kilometres away from the New Zealand mainland. The fifteen small marine reserves in our coastal waters make up only 0.1 percent of our coastal marine area.

For the Government to reach its goal of protecting ten percent of our marine area by 2010, serious attention needs to be given to creating new marine reserves around our coastline.

The New Zealand Underwater Association believes that the development of marine reserves should move from creating single reserves to establishing a marine reserve network. "Last year the Australian state of Victoria created a marine reserve network over five percent of its coastal marine area - we should learn from their success", Ms Thomas says.

The Association is disappointed that the Marine Reserves Bill 2002, which is part of the Government's effort to implement the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy, includes no provisions for applications for marine reserve networks. "That's a major oversight when the Bill is supposed to help establish a representative network of marine protected areas", Ms Thomas says.

"The New Zealand Underwater Association will be making a submission suggesting that the Bill is amended to allow for the establishment of marine reserve networks", Ms Thomas says. Public submissions on the Marine Reserves Bill close on January 31st 2003.

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