Government's new proposal for marine protection is inadequate because it will not protect all the sea that New Zealand controls, Forest & Bird member Keith Beautrais says.
The proposal announced this week is for a new Marine Protected Areas Act. It would offer various levels of protection in addition to no-take marine reserves. The levels include two recreational fishing parks where commercial fishing is limited, seabed reserves where there is no mining, dredging and bottom trawling and areas where certain species are protected.
The two recreational fishing parks are the whole of the Marlborough Sounds and the Hauraki Gulf extending from Leigh to north of Coromandel. Commercial fishers excluded from them would be compensated.
The glaring omission from the proposal is any protection for New Zealand's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) which extends from 12 nautical miles to 200 nautical miles out to sea and is the fourth largest in the world.
Instead the proposal only concerns territorial waters extending from the shoreline to 12 nautical miles out. Mr Beautrais said that was only 4per cent of the waters New Zealand controls.
"Although they are talking about wanting integrated marine protection, how do we achieve that when so many species are going between the two zones?" he asked.
The new law is an important one and Forest & Bird has been waiting for it for 15 years. Its new reserves and semi-protected areas were good, he said.
But what it also did was give certainty of access to fossil fuel and mining companies wanting to access the EEZ seabed.
"This is at the very time when the rest of the world is making commitments to get away from fossil fuels and leave some in the ground."
Trans-Tasman Resources' first application to mine ironsand off the South Taranaki coast was declined by the Environmental Protection Authority. But the company intends to apply again.
"They're coming back for another bite without a good ecological survey or any kind of understanding of releasing nutrients out of sediments and burying areas in residue. That would be an example of why going out 12 (nautical miles) isn't adequate," Mr Beautrais said.
He encouraged people to make submissions on the proposal before the March 11 deadline.
"This is New Sea Land - our name and our location. Most of what we control is under water. It's an incredible resource and the history on the land of extracting things and reducing the potential for sustainability isn't good. We've just got to avoid that in the ocean."