An area of the South Island coast and ocean the size of Auckland is being tagged for marine protection under a proposal supported by two MPs.
Minister of Fisheries Stuart Nash and Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage announced an action today which aims to enhance the protection of New Zealand's marine biodiversity in the face of the global biodiversity crisis.
The South-East Marine Protection Forum last year presented two options for a marine protected area network from Timaru in South Canterbury, to Waipapa Point in Southland.
"After careful consideration we have decided to consult on progressing the larger Network 1 option which covers 1267 km2 and includes 18 of the 22 coastal habitats in the forum area, seven of 12 estuarine habitats and two biogenic habitats," Nash said.
"This network was the option favoured by the science, environment, tourism, and community sectors of the forum, as well as one of the two recreational fishing representatives."
Sage said the Government was committed to protecting the environment and valuable marine biodiversity.
Public views on the areas proposed for protection will again be sought.
"We want to hear from tangata whenua, the community and stakeholders on how to progress Network 1 because it best meets the objectives for protecting biodiversity under the Government's Marine Protected Areas Policy," she said.
"We believe this option will create the best protection for important habitats and feeding areas for marine mammals, birds, fish and invertebrates."
Progressing Network 1 will be consulted on and considered under existing legislation using the Marine Reserves Act and the Fisheries Act.
The next step under the legislation is to carry out statutory processes to create the marine protected areas, which means people will have further opportunities to comment on the proposals.
The Department of Conservation and Fisheries NZ plan to release a document for public submissions later this year.
There was extensive public consultation in late 2016 when the South East Marine Protection Forum consulted the public, industry and stakeholders on 20 sites for possible inclusion in a network of marine protected areas.
The Forum received more than 2800 submissions on its proposals.
"We want to ensure that all views on implementing marine protection in this region are heard and considered," Sage said.
The Ministers said they had instructed the Department of Conservation and Fisheries NZ to continue working with iwi Kāi Tahu to explore their aspirations for establishing and managing marine protected areas in the region.
This includes what co-management of the proposed marine protected areas will look like.