Govt remains committed to Kermadec sanctuary

  • Nick Smith
Environment

The Government is disappointed it has been unable to reach agreement with Maori fisheries trust Te Ohu Kaimoana (TOKM) on the Kermadec/Rangitahua Ocean Sanctuary, despite lengthy negotiations, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.

“The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary covers one of the most pristine and unique environments on Earth. Its 10km ocean trench is the second deepest in the world and is deeper than Mt Everest is tall, while its arc of 30 underwater volcanoes is the longest anywhere on earth. It is home to six million seabirds of 39 different species, more than 150 species of fish, 35 species of whales and dolphins, three species of endangered sea turtles and many other marine species such as corals, shellfish and crabs unique to this area,” Dr Smith says.

“We need to recognise the increasing pressures on the ocean environment from mining, over-fishing and pollution, and create protected areas at sea, just as our forebears had the wisdom to create national parks.

“We have tried very hard to find a resolution with TOKM, with 10 meetings involving ministers during the past 10 months. TOKM wanted to be able to maintain the right to fish and the right to exercise that at some time in the future. We wanted to protect the integrity of the sanctuary as a no-take area.

“The claimed consequences for TOKM are way overstated. Māori have caught more than three million tonnes under the fisheries settlement since 1992, but not a single tonne in the Kermadecs. There are five fishing companies affected, none Māori, but who collectively have only caught about 20 tonne per year, out of an annual total fishing industry catch of 450,000 tonnes.

“The claim that this new sanctuary undermines the 1992 fishery settlement is incorrect. The Government always retained the right to create protected areas where fishing would be disallowed and has done so in over 20 new marine reserves, many of which had far more impact on settlement and customary fishing rights. New Zealand is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity and the Aichi targets of setting aside at least 10 per cent of our oceans in marine protected areas.

“The proposed sanctuary is part of a Pacific-wide effort to provide large-scale Marine Protected Areas, with the United States announcing the Eastern Hawaiian Islands Reserve and the United Kingdom proposing a large reserve around Pitcairn Island.

“It is never easy to create areas for nature and protection. I have been involved in creating 18 different marine protection areas around New Zealand and none has been without controversy. A common feature of each debate has been interested parties, be they recreational, commercial or cultural fishers, or the minerals sector, support the concept of a sanctuary but do not want it to apply to them. The Government is reluctant to make an exception for TOKM as it would no longer be a sanctuary and would set a poor precedent.

“The Government has amended the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill to provide a dual name, the Kermadec/Rangitahua Ocean Sanctuary Bill, to include Maori in the new Kermadec/Rangitahua Conservation Board, and to provide for their inclusion in the 25-year review. We remain committed to the changes to the proposal despite not being able to secure an agreement with TOKM.”