Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary objections mistaken

  • Nick Smith

Objections to the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary are ignoring the need for leadership in marine conservation, overstating the impacts in respect of fishery and Treaty settlement obligations and underestimating the opportunities for economic and scientific gain, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith said today in response to a group of prominent Māori leaders.

“The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary covers one of the most pristine and unique environments on Earth. It includes the second deepest ocean trench at over 10 kilometres – deeper than Mt Everest is tall – and an arc of 30 underwater volcanoes – the largest anywhere on earth. It is home to six million seabirds of 39 different species, over 150 species of fish, 35 species of whales and dolphins, three species of sea turtles – all endangered – and many other marine species like corals, shellfish and crabs unique to this area,” Dr Smith says.

“Just as our forebears set aside significant areas of our land like the Tongariro and Fiordland National Parks, we need to recognise the increasing pressures on the ocean environment from mining, over-fishing, and pollution and create protected areas at sea.

“The claim that this new sanctuary undermines the 1992 Treaty of Waitangi 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 since. Some of these reserves have had more impact on settlement and customary fishing rights than the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary. Māori and Te Ohu Kaimoana (TOKM) would also be aware of our international obligations with the Aichi targets of setting aside at least 10 per cent of our oceans in marine protected areas.

“It is material that not one tonne of fish has been taken from the proposed Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary by Maori since the 1992 settlement despite over three million tonnes being caught elsewhere. There are five non-Maori fishing companies affected but they have only caught an average 20 tonnes out of a national annual catch of 650,000.

“Global fishing markets are becoming more sensitive to issues of sustainability and marine conservation. Maori and other quota holders would do far better for their shareholding by leveraging the value of New Zealand setting aside one of the largest global ocean sanctuaries for nature.  There are also significant scientific gains nationally and internationally from having areas of ocean undisturbed from mining, fishing and other human activity.

“The claim that there has been no consultation with iwi is also incorrect. The two iwi with statutory acknowledgments Ngāti Kuri and Te Aupōuri have long supported the sanctuary and have advocated for its establishment alongside Pew Charitable Trusts, World Wide Fund for Nature New Zealand, and the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society. They have had a key influence over the bill establishing the sanctuary and will have an ongoing role in its management. I and my officials have also met with iwi leaders, TOKM and other iwi on the sanctuary. The drive for this Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary has come from tens of thousands of New Zealanders including the two local iwi who do not want every last corner of our ocean exploited for economic advantage.”

The first reading of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill had unanimous support from all parties in the Parliament. The Bill has been referred to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee for public submissions with a report back to Parliament by 2 August 2016. The Government remains committed to this important national and global contribution to protect the ocean environment.