TE TAPUWAE O RONGOKAKO MARINE RESERVE OFFICIALLY OPENEDConservation
Conservation Minister Nick Smith today officially opened New Zealand's sixteenth and largest mainland marine reserve, Te Tapuwae o Rongokako in a dawn ceremony at the reserve, sixteen kilometres north of Gisborne.
"The establishment of Te Tapuwae o Rongokako, our sixteenth marine reserve, is a huge achievement for marine conservation. This reserve is the first marine reserve that has involved iwi as joint applicants along with the Department of Conservation. At 2450 hectares, Te Tapuwae o Rongokako is the largest marine reserve associated with the mainland coastline. The reserve extends between the mouths of the Waiomoko and Pouawa Rivers."
Te Tapuwae o Rongokako was approved by Dr Smith in July this year and received the concurrence of the Ministers of Fisheries and Transport in September.
"Ngati Konohi, tangata whenua of this area, have worked closely with the Department for nine years to get the marine reserve established. This close co-operation will continue with the establishment of a committee of local representatives to assist and advise the Department with management of the reserve."
Ngati Konohi became involved in the marine reserve process because of concerns over diminishing seafood stocks in traditional harvesting areas. They felt the marine reserve site could become a kohanga to nurture kai moana. Kaumatua such as the late Jack Haapu and ex Conservation Board member, Hone Taumaunu worked long and hard with the department to reach agreement on a conservation measure that has the unanimous approval of Ngati Konohi.
The wider community has also been involved in the process, with the Pouawa site being originally proposed by the Combined Gisborne Underwater and Fishing Clubs in 1990. The site has attracted considerable scientific interest because of its situation near a transition zone between marine regions. This will provide a unique opportunity to study the influence of climate and land use on the distribution and abundance of marine life. The reserve also contains eight marine habitats that are representative of this area of the East Coast.
Te Tapuwae o Rongokako recalls the legendary footsteps of a famous ancestor. Those 'footsteps' still hold a rich diversity of marine habitat ranging from sandy beaches to intertidal reef platforms, inshore reefs, kelp forests and sediment flats, which make this one of the spectacular and interesting marine environments in the Gisborne region.
"Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve is the result of cooperation and compromise between local people. It also represents a major achievement for marine conservation on the East Coast."