A Far North iwi is welcoming plans for a Kermadec Island sanctuary, but says a phone call about the plan ahead of it being announced is not consultation as claimed by the Government.

Te Aupouri says the first time it heard about plans for a sanctuary was during a phone call from Environment Minister Nick Smith the night before the announcement.

Last Tuesday, the Government announced 620,000 square kilometres of waters surrounding the Kermadec Islands, 1000km northeast of New Zealand, would be turned into a sanctuary protecting habitats of seabirds, whales and dolphins, turtles, fish and other marine life.

Labour's fisheries spokesman, Rino Tirikatene, said he was concerned about the little consultation the Crown had with iwi prior to the announcement. But Dr Smith said those comments did not make sense and there had been consultation.


"Ngati Kuri and Te Aupouri - the two northern iwi with connections to the Kermadec Islands - indicated their strong support for the new sanctuary prior to its announcement. These two relevant iwi have been pushing for the sanctuary proposal and so Labour's criticism that they were not consulted does not make sense," he said.

While the Dr Smith's comment was true for Ngati Kuri who, according to chairman Harry Burkhardt, had been calling for a sanctuary, Te Aupouri Runanga CEO Mike Stevens said the first they heard of the proposal was when Dr Smith called the iwi chairman the night before the announcement.

"The iwi's view is that we would likely not be opposed to this, but the means of how they've gone about it is somewhat offensive," he said.

On Thursday evening The Advocate requested comment from Dr Smith in response to Mr Stevens' comments, but there had been no response by edition time yesterday.

Mr Stevens said he was not sure how Dr Smith came to the conclusion the iwi strongly supported the sanctuary, saying proper consultation would have required the two parties sitting down to discuss sanctuary.

"There's a difference between supporting the sanctuary and opposing the way it was put in place. We're saying we disagree with the processes," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Burkhardt said the announcement was what Ngati Kuri had been waiting for.

"We got the outcome we wanted.

"We normally find ourselves in conversations with the Crown and it can take a long time before action is taken so I'm hugely surprised by this and give them power."

He said the sanctuary was a way of protecting the "uniqueness" of the Kermadec Islands.

"We want to protect our land for future generations, our land is not in a good state and we want to ensure what land left for them is of good quality."

The Kermadec Islands have had a marine reserve around them since 1990, but this decision will extend it from 12 nautical miles to the 200 nautical miles. The protected area will be twice the size of New Zealand's land mass and 50 times the size of the country's largest national park.