Five new marine reserves have been officially opened on the West Coast today.
Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith said the reserves would protect a range of marine ecosystems for conservation, science and recreation.
"These five new marine reserves on the West Coast effective from today are part of the Government's plan to improve New Zealand's marine conservation,' he said.
"We are a nation with some of the most spectacular and unique coastlines in the world and we need to recognise the importance and value of these marine habitats."
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The five reserves, Kahurangi, Punakaiki, Waiau Glacier Coast, Tauparikaka and Hautai, are the first such reserves for the West Coast beyond Fiordland, and adjoin three National Parks and one World Heritage Area, Te Wahipounamu - South West New Zealand.
"The creation of these reserves is a great result for conservation on the West Coast and allows us to preserve and manage interconnected ecosystems from the mountains to the ocean," Dr Smith said.
The marine reserves will protect some of the shore and seabed habitats of special marine life such as Hector's dolphins and blue penguins (korora), as well as a wide range of fish species and other marine life.
"These five new marine reserves were recommended by the West Coast Marine Protection Forum involving Ngai Tahu, commercial and recreational fishers, conservationists, tourism operators and councils. It is a real tribute to the Forum that in a region where conservation issues over forests, coal, gold and hydro development have caused so much conflict that a consensus has been found on marine conservation," Dr Smith said.
Some low-impact activities would still be allowed within the reserves' boundaries to ensure that people can fully enjoy the benefits of the reserves, but without damaging marine life, he said.