Blues look out to sea

15:56, Mar 15 2014

New Zealand and Australia will seek to form a "Cairns Group" of nations to work together to regulate the high seas, the way that group did for trade, Australian federal environment minister Greg Hunt says.

Mr Hunt and New Zealand conservation minister Nick Smith announced the two nations would work together as part of announcements made at the National Party's Blue-green conference in Kaikoura yesterday.

Three Government ministers including Dr Smith attended the conference, and a raft of announcements were made. These included Environment Minister Amy Adams announcing $2.1million for community fresh water quality initiatives, and Dr Smith announcing the final approval of five marine reserves on the West Coast, leading up to an expected announcement on Sunday by Prime Minister John Key that the Government has accepted a community proposal for a marine sanctuary off

Mr Hunt said  New Zealand and Australia will work together on proposals to develop a new international agreement for improving conservation and management of the marine environment beyond countries' national jurisdiction, and they
would try to recruit other nations to join them.

Mr Hunt described it as "a Cairns Group", after the group of agricultural product-exporting nations, led by Australia, that works for trade liberalisation within the World Trade Organisation. 

"What could be in order for us to achieve this is to establish a group of supportive nations. We want them from Asia, North America, Latin America, Europe."


Mr Hunt and Dr Smith said New Zealanders and Australians shared a strong association with the ocean environment, both of us had responsibility for huge ocean areas and both had a strong history of leadership in oceans management.

"It makes good sense for us to work closely together on improving the conservation and management of the ocean environment beyond national jurisdictions."

In 2012, the United Nations Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development agreed on a deadline to report back to the United Nations General Assembly on filling this gap in oceans governance by September 2015.

United Nations discussions on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction are due to be held in New York next month.

Dr Smith said two thirds of the world's oceans were in areas beyond the national jurisdiction of individual nation states.

Strengthening environmental governance to ensure the sustainable management of marine resources in this huge area was needed, he said.

"New Zealand has a proud record of leadership in oceans management with our Quota Management System, our network of marine reserves and our EEZ regulation, and we need to contribute constructively to this UN process by ensuring the high
seas are also better managed.

"Australia is an obvious partner in this work as our near neighbour in the Southern Ocean and as a country which has long played a major role internationally in oceans management."

The Marlborough Express