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Trans Tasman's Political Pulse - October 26, 2017

Trans Tasman's Political Pulse - October 26, 2017

26 October, 2017

A Kermadec Petrel, an example of the islands' rich wildlife.

Kermadecs: Where Politics, Policies
And Principles Collide

INSIGHTS ABOUT THE NEWS - Environmentalists will be shaking their heads at how the political process has managed to derail the proposed Kermadec Marine Sanctuary. The huge sanctuary has widespread public support and National and the Greens had a majority to pass the Bill before Parliament.

As reported in Trans-Tasman’s sister publication, the NZ Energy & Environment Business Alert, the sanctuary was to be a major contributor to NZ’s international commitments to protect the marine environment. However, it is now hard to see how those commitments can be reached in the foreseeable future.

The previous National Govt has to take its share of the blame for the problem. To make a big splash, it failed to properly negotiate with iwi and fishing companies before the announcement. The Govt and many others did not see this as a major problem because the fishing quota around the Kermadec Islands is essentially unused.

However, the National Govt ran straight into a property rights and a Treaty issue, with quota holders arguing what they held commercially, or as redress in a settlement, had value and could not be nullified.

The National Govt backed off as it did not want to buy a fight with the Maori Party. Now the Maori Party is gone many in the environmental sector thought progress would be easier.

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Instead, the issue now highlights the sometimes conflicting policy and political priorities of the three different parties forming the new Govt. The Greens did believe the environmental positives of the sanctuary trumped the property rights of quota owners, while NZ First supports the fisheries sector. Labour supports the sanctuary in principle, but its large Maori caucus is mindful of the Treaty issues raised.

The body language of the players now involved is revealing, with Green co-leader James Shaw describing the issue as “complex.” The Greens’ agreement with Labour says they will use “best endeavours and work alongside Maori” to create the sanctuary. NZ First’s agreement says the two parties will “work with Maori and other quota holders to resolve outstanding issues in the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill in a way that is satisfactory to both Labour and NZ First.” Neither exude confidence the sanctuary will be created in this Parliament.

It may be difficult, but it is not complex.

Compensation has to be agreed to, legislated against or left to the courts decide, otherwise the sanctuary may never happen. If no quota can ever be cancelled or curtailed then it will be very difficult to ever create a large all-encompassing marine sanctuary anywhere in NZ waters.

In many ways the Kermadec Sanctuary should be easy runs on the board towards NZ’s commitments to marine protection. If it can’t be sorted out, it does not bode well for more sanctuaries in areas with some economic exploitation, such as the subantarctic islands, let alone more heavily fished ocean.

Trans Tasman’s sister publication, NZ Energy & Environment Business Alert, is a weekly source providing you with in-depth news, analysis and opinion on NZ’s energy and environment sectors.


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