Pressure on Govt to approve marine reserve

PAUL GORMAN
Last updated 12:20 20/06/2012

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Pressure is building on the Government to approve a proposed Akaroa Harbour marine reserve after a High Court ruling overturned the original decision.

The Akaroa Harbour Marine Protection Society and the New Zealand Marine Sciences Society have written to Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson asking when she is going to act on Justice Whata's ruling made last month.

The High Court judge found Wilkinson had made an ''error of law'' in rejecting the 1996 proposal for a 530-hectare marine reserve near Dan Rogers Bluff that would protect about 12 per cent of the harbour from fishing.

She had not examined the wider benefits when determining whether it would affect the existing use of the area for recreational purposes, the judgment said.

Wilkinson was ordered to reconsider the application.

The June 19 letter from protection society president Brian Reid said members welcomed the judgment ''clarifying that the wider countervailing benefits'' of the reserve had to be taken into account.

''Akaroa is primarily a recreational harbour, extensively used by local residents and visitors for fishing and the enjoyment of its wildlife and scenic beauty,'' he said.

''It is a prime nature tourism destination for New Zealanders and international visitors, with Hector's dolphins being the principal attraction.

''The no-take regime being applied to 12 per cent of the harbour will be outweighed by the overall benefits to fishing in the balance of the harbour.''

There were no other marine protected areas with a full no-take regime along the South Island's east coast from Cape Campbell to Timaru.

''Now that the wider benefits are to be taken into account, we ask you to approve the Akaroa marine reserve. Our society would appreciate advice as to the process and timetable for reaching a decision in light of the High Court's findings,'' Reid's letter said.

A letter to Wilkinson from marine sciences society president Colin McLay on June 11 said the assessment had to be reconsidered in light of the judgment.

''We hope that there are no further delays to a decision being made about this proposed reserve as much time has passed since the application was first lodged,'' it said.

''The society respectfully asks what the next steps in the process are, together with their time frames.''

Wilkinson could not be reached for comment as she is overseas.

A spokesman said she was ''considering what she is going to do''.

''She doesn't have any time frames at this stage,'' he said.

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- The Press

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