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New Zealand’s first marine reserve turns 30

23 February 2006

New Zealand’s first marine reserve turns 30

The Department of Conservation is celebrating thirty years of New Zealand’s first marine reserve at Goat Island near Leigh during Sea Week.

In the thirty years since the Cape Rodney-Okakari Point Marine Reserve (known as Goat Island marine reserve) was created its sea life has flourished and become a major attraction for the public.

Department of Conservation community relations officer Liz Maire said the marine reserve had become an important place for people to experience marine life in a natural setting.

“We get up to 4000 people a day at the height of summer and they all come for a close encounter with the fish and other marine life.”

Each year more than 300,000 people visit this five-kilometre stretch of coast to view the abundant fish and sea life in the reserve. In 2003 the Rodney Economic Development Trust estimated the marine reserve pumped $12 million into the local economy.

Monitoring has shown that barren areas eaten out by sea urchins has been replaced by seaweed due to increases in snapper and rock lobster, which eat the urchins. Legal-sized snapper are about 13 times more plentiful in the marine reserve than outside and are also 10-centimetres larger. Rock lobster, blue cod, silver drummer and butterfish are also more numerous.

Ms Maire said DOC was celebrating the marine reserve’s third decade with a beach adventure day on Saturday 11 March during Sea Week. “We hope people will come and join in the free activities at the beach and discover what an amazing place this is.”

You can explore the rocks and rock pools in a guided tour with marine experts Tony and Jenny Enderby on the hour from 11am to 2 pm. Learn how to tell a half crab from a chiton and to spot an octopus. They will also be giving tips on snorkelling and what to look out for in the water. Bookings are essential through the DOC Warkworth Office. Discounted trips on the Glass Bottom Boat will also be available.

The Cape Rodney-Okakari Marine Reserve was established in 1975. The 500-hectare area extends out 800 metres around Goat Island, named after the goats seafarers left there as a food source more than 100 years ago. New Zealand now has 27 marine reserves which make up about seven percent of our territorial sea.

Sea Week (5-12 March) aims to raise awareness about our unique marine environment. The theme this year is “One Ocean – Te moana takutahi”.

ENDS

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