Marine reserve 'dream' arrives

RACHEL YOUNG
Last updated 05:00 09/06/2014
marine reserve
STACY ASQUIRES/Fairfax NZ

BRRR: MP for Conversation Dr Nick Smith and fellow MP for the Environment Amy Adams donned wet suits to celebrate with a swim in the new reserve.

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A campaign group's 20-year dream of securing a marine reserve in Akaroa Harbour has finally been realised.

Conservation Minister Nick Smith and Environment Minister Amy Adams officially opened the reserve yesterday, to mark World Oceans Day.

The reserve status means all marine life is protected and that fishing and the removal of any living or non-living marine resource is prohibited.

The Akaroa Marine Protection Society has fought for the reserve status since 1996.

Suky Thompson, the society's spokeswoman, said it was "hard to believe" the battle was over.

"I'm very proud and very pleased. I just wish it hadn't taken quite so long," she said.

Thompson, who has been a long-time advocate, said there had been numerous "twists and turns" delaying the process over the years.

"It was somewhat depressing the way things dragged out for so long," she said.

Ngai Tahu and "some elderly recreational fishermen" opposed the reserve status, but most of the Akaroa community celebrated yesterday's announcement, Thompson said.

About 80 people attended the ceremony on a boat in the harbour. "It was lovely to be out there on the boat and around the mist and the rocks," she said. "This is all about giving the harbour back its womb."

Smith said hundreds of species, including dolphins and fish, would benefit from the area's new status.

"This newly protected status is well deserved. The scenery surrounding the reserve is some of the most spectacular coastline anywhere in New Zealand with its huge volcanic cliffs, wild sea caves and unusual sea stacks," he said.

The 512-hectare reserve covers the southeastern corner of the Akaroa Harbour.

Most of the rest of the harbour is managed under a taiapure (local fishery) established in 2006.

Smith acknowledged the work of the Akaroa Marine Protection Society in fighting for the reserve. It is the fourth marine reserve the Government has put in place this year, with an aim of 10 by the end of the year.

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- The Press

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