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Marine Reserves Act Review Discussion Document

Marine Reserves Act Review Discussion Document Launched

The Minister of Conservation Hon Sandra Lee today released a discussion document ('green paper') reviewing the Marine Reserves Act 1971, to seek more effective ways of setting-up and managing marine reserves, and more involvement for local communities.

"The old Act's focus on scientific study was too narrow and is out of step with the inclusive processes that communities now require," said Ms Lee. "People expect to be consulted and informed, so the old legislation must be upgraded to keep pace with these expectations."

Ms Lee said the effectiveness of marine reserves as modern environmental protection tools needed to be clarified, as did how they now sat alongside other more recent forms of marine protection available through the Resource Management Act and the Fisheries Act.

"We need to ensure, in particular, that existing use and management rights can be properly taken into account, " she said.

"Existing use and management rights may not necessarily constitute a veto over a proposed marine reserve, but the Marine Reserve Act needs to have an appropriate and fair process for people to express their concerns. There also needs to be clear criteria against which the Government can consider objections and evaluate a marine reserve proposal."

The Conservation Minister said the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy, launched earlier this year, committed the Government to protecting 10-percent of our marine environment by 2010. The Strategy called for a review of the Marine Reserve Act to provide better protection for marine biodiversity, including extending the current jurisdiction beyond the12-mile limit to also take in our exclusive economic zone.

"There is a clear need to refocus the Marine Reserves Act on protection, rather than just scientific study, if we are to meet the Biodiversity Strategy's objectives and targets for marine protection," Ms Lee said.

"Less than one percent of our territorial sea is under some form of protection, compared with about 30 percent of our land mass," she said. "This review is needed to ensure that marine reserves can become modern and effective conservation tools."

"We also seek to streamline the processes for establishing marine reserves so these are simpler and more efficient. At the moment, some criteria are vague and can make the setting-up process drawn-out and confusing."

Ms Lee said it was also important to be clear about what the review did not involve. She said the Biodiversity Strategy made it clear that marine reserves could serve as important environmental protection tools, so there was no question over their future. She said the review would also not aim to change the way customary, recreational or commercial fishing would be managed. The Minister added that the review also did not aim to assess what the overall objectives should be for New Zealand's marine environment programe. Ms Lee said these would be addressed through a comprehensive Oceans Policy, which Fisheries Minister Pete Hodgson would be launching shortly.

Ms Lee said the Government's commitment in this year's Budget of an extra $187m to fund the Biodiversity Strategy over the next five years included $11.5m to fund an increase in the number of marine reserves. She said the current marine reserve network was not representative of the full variety and range of New Zealand's distinctive coastal and marine habitats and ecosystems.

"The Marine Reserves Act has not been comprehensively reviewed since it was introduced nearly 30-years ago," Ms Lee said. "I urge everyone with an interest in marine issues to read this discussion document, Tapui Taimoana: Reviewing the Marine Reserves Act 1971: Discussion document—Have your say, which will be available free next week from local DOC offices, Ministry of Fisheries offices, and public libraries." The Department of Conservation will also hold a series of public meetings and hui on the document, and public submissions on it will close on 22 December 2000.


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