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Marine Reserve Bill commitment welcomed


Marine Reserve Bill commitment welcomed

Yesterday in Parliament, the Minister of Conservation committed the Government to passing the Marine Reserves Bill after the election.

“We’re obviously pleased that the Government is committed to passing the Marine Reserves Bill, though we’d rather see it passed before the election. Over 95 percent of New Zealanders support marine reserves and it’s time the Bill was passed,” said Forest and Bird’s Senior Researcher Barry Weeber.

“The Bill is urgently needed to help remedy the huge under-representation of the marine environment in our network of protected areas," he said.

“We are well behind Australia when it comes to marine protection,” he said. “Australia has over 6 percent of its marine area out to 200 nautical miles in no-take reserves while New Zealand has only 0.25 percent.”

"People are increasingly aware that marine environments and species are as important as those on land. New Zealand’s record in marine protection lags 50 years behind our achievements in creating national parks and reserves on land," he said.

Mr Weeber said it was disappointing to hear in Parliament that the United Future party wants to gut the Marine Reserves Bill.

“They should start listening to the majority of submitters on marine reserve proposals who say they want them, and the overwhelming proportion of New Zealanders who want marine reserves,” he said.

NOTES

The Marine Reserves Bill has languished in Parliament’s Local Government and Environment Select Committee for over 3 years and the Labour-led Government has allowed the report back date on the Bill to be further extended to mid-August 2005, ensuring it cannot be passed .before the election

An opinion poll of 1001 New Zealanders conducted by Colmar Brunton in February 2005 for WWF-New Zealand show 95% of New Zealanders believe that more of the country's coast and seas should be protected by marine reserves.

Key provisions of the bill: expand the consultation provisions; bring the purpose for creating marine reserves in line with land-based legislation; allow reserves to be created in the whole EEZ; include seabirds as a reason for creating reserves; and replace the clumsy concurrence requirement from the Minister of Fisheries and Transport with a clear requirement to consult.

The Ministry of Fisheries has been a major barrier to adequate marine protection and it’s time they were taken out of the statutory process so that the Government can get on with the job of protecting New Zealand’s oceans. With less than 0.25 percent of New Zealand marine area protected in marine reserves, it is clear that more marine reserves are overdue.

Marine reserves provide a unique opportunity to protect whole marine ecosystems, so that we can see what our marine life used to look like. They are also crucial for our understanding of fish biology and ecology that will help guide management elsewhere.


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