Kaikoura to get new deep-sea reserve

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 05:00 17/03/2014

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Kaikoura will be home to the largest marine reserve on New Zealand's main coastline under a new proposal announced by Prime Minister John Key.

Key announced the creation of Te Korowai deep-sea reserve at the Ngati Kuri marae in Kaikoura yesterday. It would include a new coastal guardian group, stricter fishing regulations and whale and fur seal sanctuaries.

The reserve would cover 10,416 hectares around a 2km underwater canyon off the coast and ban all mining, fishing or harvesting.

There would be a 4686 sq km whale and 4ha seal sanctuary.

Conservation Minister Nick Smith said the measures would benefit Kaikoura's wildlife and help sustain the area's $134 million a year tourism industry.

It would also limit seismic surveying by the oil and gas industry, which residents feared could drive away the whales and dolphins.

Smith said Kaikoura's underwater canyon was the most biologically diverse area below 500 metres in the world.

However, Labour's conservation spokeswoman Ruth Dyson said the proposal was a "low-hanging fruit" and the Government was not tackling the hard issues of environmental protection.

"National has demonstrated how out of touch it is with key conservation issues in New Zealand," she said.

Ngai Tahu leader Sir Mark Solomon said Te Korowai coastal guardian group would help iwi better manage the Kaikoura marine environment's future.

Solomon said it had taken nine years for Te Korowai to develop its measures and the Government to implement them.

There was still work to do, he said. "The negotiations were long and hard, but for me the whole process was a beautiful expression of community."

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

Green Party list MP Steffan Browning said the Government should also now consider the concerns of Ngati Kuri of Ngai Tahu and other Te Korowai members that risky deep-sea oil exploration areas are near the proposed Kaikoura Whale Sanctuary.

Smith said the marine reserve bill would be introduced to Parliament today. He hoped it would pass into law by the end of the year.

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- The Press

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