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Great Barrier Marine Reserve proposal welcomed

16 June 2005, Auckland/Wellington

MEDIA RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE USE

Great Barrier Marine Reserve proposal welcomed


Forest and Bird today welcomed the decision of the Minister of Conservation to approve the Aotea (Great Barrier) Marine Reserve proposal as a significant step forward in marine conservation.

“Forest and Bird commends the Minister for his decision to approve the Marine Reserve proposal,” said Forest and Bird's Northern Conservation Officer, David Pattemore. “He is right to listen to the majority of submissions which supported the proposal.”

“It is also line with the recent poll in March which showed that 95 percent of New Zealanders support more marine reserves.”

"Our marine conservation effort lags decades behind our efforts on land, but this decision starts to correct that imbalance,".

The Minister of Conservation today approved the 49,500 ha marine reserve off the northeast coast of Great Barrier Island. The area has been reduced since the proposal was advertised last year, with an area around the Whangapoua Beach and the estuary excluded from the reserve to allow fishing by local residents.

"Marine reserves around the mainland of New Zealand have typically been very small," said Mr. Pattemore. "This makes them much more vulnerable to random events and flow-on impacts from fishing outside of the reserve boundaries."

"The Great Barrier Marine Reserve proposal will be New Zealand's third largest and will provide benefits for a wide range of connected habitats," he said.

Responding to claims that no-take marine reserves limit public enjoyment of the environment, Mr. Pattemore said, "The Leigh, Poor Knights and Kapiti marine reserves attract many tens of thousands of people each year to enjoy the experience of a protected marine environment where the variety and abundance of sea-life is readily accessible."

Apart from its direct conservation value, this reserve is also likely to be very important to Great Barrier Island’s local tourism and recreation economy.

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

The proposal now needs the concurrence of the Minister of Fisheries and the Minister of Transport.

"We hope that these Ministers will approve the application this year," said Mr Pattemore.

ENDS

Notes: Currently the proportion of mainland New Zealand's coastal waters in this form of protection is less than one percent, yet about 33% of land is protected for conservation purposes.

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