Akaroa marine reserve approved

  • Nick Smith

A new marine reserve in Akaroa Harbour has been approved by Conservation Minister Nick Smith.

“Akaroa is an iconic harbour that is hugely popular for recreation and tourism but its marine life is degraded. I have approved this new reserve around the spectacular Dan Rogers Bluff because it will enhance the area, assist scientific study and benefit the public,” Dr Smith said.

The Akaroa Harbour Marine Protection Society Inc. made a formal application for the marine reserve in January 1996. The formal consultation had 2334 submissions in support and 709 objections, with the principal opponents being Ngāi Tahu and recreational fishers.

“I have carefully considered the passionate and strongly felt arguments put by both supporters and opponents of this reserve. I have not upheld the objections but have decided to adjust the northern boundary by 55ha, reducing the reserve to 475ha, to take account of concerns from customary and recreational fishers.

“It is my usual preference to secure some degree of consensus about the desirability of having new areas of marine protection, as was the case with my announcement last month of five new marine reserves on the West Coast of the South Island. This has not been possible with the Akaroa proposal despite the best endeavours of six Ministers over nearly two decades. I concluded, with the support of both the applicant and principal objectors last month, that consensus in this case was not possible and that I needed to proceed to make a decision.

“This is the most important but not the final stage in establishing a new marine reserve. I have written to the applicants and opponents notifying them of my decision. I have also written to the Minister for Primary Industries and Minister of Transport to secure their formal concurrence under the Marine Reserves Act. The final stage, subject to their consideration, is a formal recommendation recommending the reserve be gazetted by the Governor-General.

“I must acknowledge the huge effort and energy so many people have put into all sides of this difficult debate over Akaroa’s marine reserve. This debate illustrates just how much passion and interest there is in this very special part of Canterbury and New Zealand.

“I am including in my decision a directive for the Department of Conservation to review the reserve in a decade’s time in the hope that over time and with scientific monitoring, differing views may come together on how to manage this spectacular harbour,” Dr Smith said.