A Northland eco-business operator says an international wildlife protection group's idea for safeguarding more of New Zealand's coastal and marine environment is unrealistic.
Jeroen Jongejans said World Wide Fund for Nature's (WWF) call for the Government to develop a national network of no-take marine reserves had some merit but was not the right model for New Zealand.
Mr Jongejans said 100 per cent no-take marine reserves worked well, and the WWF's concerns about the marine environment in general were valid - but its proposed connected network was "extreme" and would not offer social and economic growth and benefits.
"There would always be discussions around how much of the coast and economic marine zone should be protected," he said.
"We have to look at it case by case, find the right balance and make compromises, whereas WWF is an international political group with an international focus.
"I think we can do a lot better and achieve the right balance of conservation, sustainability and economic benefit."
He prefers the option for Northland of a Marine National Park. Unlike no-take reserves, a national park included zones where fishing was allowed and others which were fully protected, Mr Jongejans said.
"Northland has the lowest performing GDP in New Zealand and yet we have our coastal environment which could offer huge economic benefits. We should maximise that and we can manage it sustainably by being smart."
A Whangarei District Council member, national tourism representative and co-owner of Dive! Tutukaka, Mr Jongejans said he believed a marine national park would be a base for economic growth through tourism and district development, and also accommodate cultural and recreational activities that were part of life in Northland.
WWF is concerned that only 0.3 per cent of New Zealand's marine habitat is fully protected while nearly 20 per cent of its land is.
"Our oceans are home to around 80 per cent of New Zealand's biodiversity," the organisation's New Zealand marine programme manager Rebecca Bird said.
A national network of marine reserves was critical to the health of marine industries such as fishing which depend on a healthy functioning marine ecosystem, Ms Bird said.
WWF is an international non-governmental organisation working on issues regarding the conservation, research and restoration of the environment.
The organisation is currently running a competition asking people to submit entries in written form, art, song, or another creative format, about what New Zealand's oceans mean to them. Entries close on April 15.
Some of the creative Kiwis who have put their shoulders to the push are author Lloyd Jones, poet Bill Manhire, singers Hollie Smith and Ladyhawke and artists, Sarah Larnach, Otis Frizzell and Dick Frizzell.