The Guardians of Kāpiti Marine Reserve have renewed their call for a dedicated patrol boat for the Kāpiti Marine Reserve and Kāpiti Island Nature Reserve.
Speaking to the Wellington Conservation Board, Guardians chairman Ben Knight said a Kāpiti-based patrol boat would provide a much-needed boost in the Department of Conservation's (DoC's) on-water presence enabling a more effective compliance and law enforcement effort for the marine reserve as well as a host of other operational benefits both on the water and on the island.
"Having a DoC patrol boat based at Kāpiti Island makes good sense not just for monitoring and protecting the marine reserve but also to support DoC's research and conversation programmes within the Kāpiti Marine Reserve and the Kāpiti Island Nature Reserve.
"We believe the local DoC team are doing an excellent job with the limited resources available, but their capacity to respond to incidents of illegal fishing and to meet the wider management needs of the reserves is hampered by the lack of a Kāpiti Island-based boat.
"The current situation whereby the nearest DoC patrol boat is based at Mana, which is a 25-kilometre journey over open ocean from Kāpiti, means DoC have a very limited capacity to effectively respond to reports from the public of incidents of illegal fishing."
Mr Knight said while the recently launched webcam network was providing a deterrent effect to illegal fishers, the lack of a Kāpiti Island-based patrol boat was a significant gap in DoC's capability to manage the marine reserve.
"When the reserve was first established in 1992, the long-term provision of a patrol boat to effectively detect and deter illegal fishing was fundamental to the community supporting the reserve.
"Nearly 27 years later, it's more important now than ever before, as the reserve's significantly higher fish stocks, compared to fished areas outside of the reserve, make it more of a target than ever before.
"As well as detecting and deterring organised illegal fishing, we've got significant population growth with new boaties and fishers moving into the area as well as out of town boaties, who may not be familiar with the reserve's boundaries, so there's plenty of work for a dedicated patrol boat to do to protect one of New Zealand's largest and oldest marine reserves.
"The recently announced DoC Sentinel Site research programme, the NIWA-led habitat mapping project and the ongoing biological monitoring work that DoC and its research partners conduct within Kāpiti Marine Reserve coupled with the high level of public interest in the reserve highlights the value and importance of Kāpiti Marine Reserve for research, education and recreation purposes.
"As one of only 44 marine reserves in New Zealand, this is a nationally significant taonga and the management effort and resourcing should reflect that status."