Move to protect marine wildlife

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 07:11 17/03/2014

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The Government is to put the largest marine reserve off the New Zealand mainland coast in place at Kaikoura.

Prime Minister John Key made the announcement at Kaikoura's Ngati Kuri marae yesterday, saying the Government would implement the proposals put forward by Te Korowai o Te Tai o Marokura, the Kaikoura coastal guardians group, to set up a 10,000-hectare marine reserve, whale and fur seal sanctuaries, and five customary fishing areas as well as new regulations for recreational fishing .

Te Korowai chairman Larnce Wichman said the Government's response validated the group's hard work. "Today is a day of completion, a day of new beginnings."

The group had got everything it asked for. It was amazing and of real importance for Kaikoura, he said.

Conservation Minister Nick Smith said the measures would benefit Kaikoura's whales, dolphins, seals, albatross, rock lobster, shellfish and finfish and help sustain the area's $134 million a year tourism industry.

They would also limit seismic surveying by the oil and gas industry.

Dr Smith said the Kaikoura Marine Management Bill would be introduced to Parliament today before it goes through a committee process when the public can have its say. It was hoped the bill would be passed this year and the protections and management tools in place by 2015.

Mr Key's presence at the marae was marked by protests, with about 100 people gathered on the street in front of the marae despite torrential rain.

Government analysis showed the proposed legislation would have a low impact on the minerals and petroleum sector as the area was not thought to be worth mining. Fishing restrictions were thought to have a $1.1m a year impact on commercial fishermen at the most, and there would be lower bag limits for recreational fishermen, with a ban on red moki.

Ngai Tahu leader Sir Mark Solomon said the Te Korowai measures would help the iwi better manage the future of the Kaikoura marine environment.

He said it had taken nine years for Te Korowai to develop its measures and the Government to implement them, and there was still work to do.

"The negotiations were long and hard, but for me the whole process was a beautiful expression of community. I think the whole of New Zealand could look at this as an example of how communities can come together to look after their resources for themselves and their children."

AT A GLANCE

The new marine protection measures are:

The Hikurangi marine reserve – 10,416 hectares from the coast over the canyon, out to 23.4 kilometres. No mining, fishing or harvesting of any kind would be allowed in the area.

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The Kaikoura whale sanctuary – 4686 square kilometres 45km north and south of the Kaikoura peninsula and 56km out to sea. It bans high-level seismic survey work to protect sperm, humpback, southern right, blue, killer and other whales.

The Ohau Point New Zealand fur seal sanctuary – 4ha hectares along the coast by State Highway 1, the most significant breeding colony of New Zealand fur seals on the country's main islands. The Mangamaunu, Mussel Rock, and Oaro Maitaitai reserves where commercial fishing is banned to protect customary fishing beds. Two larger taiapure reserves, or locally managed recreational fishing areas, are to be established on the Kaikoura Peninsula and Oaro/Haumuri area.

New recreational fishing regulations – catch and size limits are to be tightened within the Te Korowai area due to concern about unsustainable pressure on fishing stocks. Tighter catch limits will apply to blue cod, rig, paua, crayfish, cockles, karengo and bladder kelp. A continuing role for Te Korowai. 

- The Marlborough Express

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