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Refusal of marine reserve shows lack of commitment

Forest & Bird media release for immediate use

Government refusal of marine reserve shows lack of commitment to marine protection

The Government’s refusal to establish a marine reserve off Great Barrier Island demonstrates its lack of commitment to marine protection, Forest &Bird says.

Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton has declined an application by the Department of Conservation for a 495-square-kilometre marine reserve off the north-east coast of Great Barrier Island, which was approved by Conservation Minister Chris Carter in 2005.

Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell says the decision is a clear demonstration that the Government is not committed to protecting the marine environment – an important issue in election year.

“The Government has said it is committed to a target of 10% of our coast being protected in marine reserves by 2010, but the decision to decline the Great Barrier reserve shows that it will not meet that commitment.

“The Government is promising much but delivering little on marine protection. We still have just a fraction of one percent of our mainland coastal waters protected in reserves. The Government’s Oceans Policy and the Marine Reserves Bill have both been stalled for years – we are seeing very little progress.”

In its application DOC said that the proposed marine reserve area was of outstanding value for its habitats and diversity of marine life, and would be an asset for scientific study and for the public to enjoy in its natural state. However, Jim Anderton said he did not think it was in the public interest to establish the marine reserve.

Kevin Hackwell says the extensive public consultation and submission process showed that there was huge public support for the reserve proposal and that the area was relatively remote and not used extensively by fishers.

“A network of marine reserves protecting a variety of marine habitats and marine life is needed around New Zealand’s coastal waters to allow populations of fish and other marine life to recover and thrive. The Great Barrier Island reserve would have been a valuable addition to that network,” he says.

While fishing and taking marine life is banned in marine reserves, their protection allows populations to breed and recover within reserves, and eventually these stocks replenish areas outside the reserve boundaries. Marine reserves also allow the public to enjoy marine life in an undisturbed natural state, and are big tourist attractions.

“We are greatly disappointed by the missed opportunity the Great Barrier Island proposal represents,” Kevin Hackwell says. “It was a chance to protect some of our most valuable and unique marine life for everyone to enjoy, but obviously the Minister is more interested in bowing to pressure from a minority of commercial and recreational fishing interests.”


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