Conservation Minister Nick Smith today announced the decision to proceed with the Parininihi Marine reserve proposal but has reduced the size of the reserve in response to submissions from fishing interests.
"The Pariokariwa Reef on the North Taranaki coast is a magnificent marine garden of unique sponge life and soft corals. It is a marine treasure chest of national significance and marine reserve status can easily be justified. It is as precious as the kauri forests of Northland or the kiwi populations of Whanganui National Park."
The proposed reserve with be New Zealand's 15th and will bring the total area of marine reserves to 740,000ha or 4% of New Zealand's marine environment. It will be the second marine reserve on the west coast of the North Island after Kapiti. The 1812ha reserve is 5.5km long and includes 3km of coastline adjoining white cliffs. Overall the marine reserve amounts to 2% of the Taranaki coastline.
The amended reserve boundaries run from Pariokariwa Point in the south to Katikatiaka Pa in the north and includes almost all of the Pariokariwa Reef. An area including the Waikiekie Reef has been excluded from the reserve.
"Marine conservation is very contentious and there are highly polarised viewpoints in Taranaki about the reserve proposal. I have decided to proceed and protect the most ecologically significant parts of the reserve but to exclude almost half of the proposal to reduce the impact of recreational and customary fishing. While there is a risk with such a compromise that I please no-one and upset everybody, I think it is a fair and balanced outcome."
The debate on the reserve began in1993 with a discussion document and with a formal application in 1995. The proposal resulted in almost 1000 objections and a petition of 5000 signatures supporting the reserve. The final step now objections have been considered, is to obtain the concurrence of the Minister of Food, Fibre, Biosecurity and Border Control and Minister of Transport.
"Taranaki is blessed with many of New Zealand's conservation jewels, like Egmont National Park. This new reserve will help build the region's reputation as a national leader in both land and marine conservation initiatives."