The Guardians of Kāpiti Marine Reserve have welcomed the recent announcement of a major new research programme for Kāpiti Marine Reserve.

The Marine Sentinel Sites programme is led by the Department of Conservation and is funded through their partnership with Air New Zealand.

It will create a national network of sentinel sites as centres of collaborative research and monitoring, with Kāpiti Marine Reserve the first of 10 marine reserves to be included in the programme.

The Marine Sentinel Sites programme will investigate how the sentinel sites are responding to large scale pressures like climate change.

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This research will be used to increase the knowledge of the broader marine environment and inform policies and management decisions to improve the health of the wider ocean and coastline.

Guardians chairman Ben Knight believed this new research programme's initial focus on Kāpiti Marine Reserve highlighted the nationally significant status of the reserve and underscored the value of the Guardians ongoing advocacy and work to ensure DoC's on the ground management effort was adequate.

"Kāpiti Marine Reserve is the fourth oldest and one of the largest coastal marine reserves in New Zealand.

"It protects nationally significant biogenic habitats including New Zealand's largest known Rhodolith beds [red calcareous algae, also known as maerl] as well as some of the most spectacular underwater scenery, habitats and biodiversity to be found anywhere in New Zealand.

"The recent announcement of this major new research programme demonstrates what many locals already know — that we have a truly special and unique marine environment in the middle of our big blue backyard that is worthy of its highly protected status and whose management should therefore be properly resourced and carried out by DoC in line with international best practise."

The Guardians also believe the announcement added weight to their repeated calls for a DoC patrol boat to be once again based at Kāpiti Island as was agreed with the local community when the reserve was first established in 1992.

"We believe that a DoC patrol boat permanently based at Kāpiti Island is fundamental to the good management of the reserve and to DoC's ongoing compliance and law enforcement in particular.

"The current arrangement whereby the closest DoC patrol boat is based at Mana is inadequate, with DoC unable to respond in a timely fashion to many incidents of suspicious activity that are observed within the reserve.

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"We believe the provision of a dedicated patrol boat for Kāpiti would enable the new Sentinel Sites research programme to be conducted more efficiently as well as allowing DoC's island based staff to more easily conduct their work managing the Kāpiti Island nature reserve.

"The local DoC staff are doing a great job under the circumstances and we believe that by providing them with a boat based at Kāpiti, DoC would be able to more efficiently manage both the marine and nature reserves and ensure that any suspicious activity in the marine reserve that are reported to DoC by our local community or by the Guardians Compliance Observer Group are responded to in a timely manner."

To learn more about the Sentinel Site programme see www.doc.govt.nz/nature/habitats/marine/type-1-marine-protected-areas-marine-reserves/marine-sentinel-site-programme/