Creation of large marine reserves nearly complete

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Creating three large marine reserves in New Zealand's remote subantarctic islands - covering an area of 435,000ha - is nearly complete after the third and final reading of a Government bill.

The Subantarctic Islands Marine Reserves Act, when enacted, will create new marine reserves surrounding the Antipodes, Bounty and Campbell Islands.

"The significance of these three new reserves is their huge size, near pristine state and remoteness," Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith said.

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"The marine reserve status means there can be no fishing, no mining and no petroleum exploration within the protected areas."

The process to create the three marine reserves was led by the Subantarctic Marine Protection Planning Protection Forum, which recommended additional protection in 2010.

The bill was introduced to Parliament in 2012, considered by the select committee last year and passed its second reading on January 28.

It now needed to receive the Royal assent from the Governor-General.

The new marine reserves would take effect at a formal ceremony on Campbell Island during a regular service visit by HMNZS Wellington on March 2.

The reserves expand the proportion of New Zealand's protected territorial sea from 7.1 per cent to 9.5 per cent, and helps to achieve the target of 10 per cent as part of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.

WWF NZ head of campaigns Peter Hardstaff said his group was delighted the Government had set up marine reserves around the islands, "because this kind of protection is vital if we are to be effective stewards of our oceans and the animals that live there".

"However, while new reserves are welcome, what New Zealand needs most of all is a comprehensive plan for looking after our marine environment," he said.

"We all need to be clear on where we want protection, where we can fish and what other type of activities will be allowed. Let's do it once and let's do it right. Our oceans deserve it."

Mr Hardstaff said legislation to set up a comprehensive marine spatial plan for looking after our oceans should be a priority for the Government and whoever was in power for the next term.

"This plan needs to include setting aside our most ecologically important marine habitats and a good starting point would be to create a Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary.

"Protecting this nearly pristine area, home to an amazing array of marine life, would be a significant step in global marine conservation."

- NZ Herald

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