Two decades of marine protection celebrated at Te Tapuwae o Rongokako in Tairawhiti

A marine conservation milestone - the 20th anniversary of the establishment of Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve - is being celebrated today at a community event in Tairāwhiti/East Coast attended by the Minister of Conservation, Eugenie Sage.

“The creation of this marine reserve in November 1999 was a game changer for marine protection, with Tairāwhiti iwi, Ngāti Konohi playing a significant role in establishing the reserve and providing for its review after 25 years,” said Eugenie Sage.

“Ngāti Konohi took the initiative and began discussions with the Department of Conservation (DOC) in 1989 about their desire to see the rock platforms and coastal seas protected. Te Tapuwae o Rongokako was created following a joint application by Ngāti Konohi and DOC. At the time it was also the largest marine reserve on New Zealand’s mainland coast, protecting about 2,450 ha of coastline.

The Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage joined Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve Committee, Department of Conservation staff, iwi, and the community in celebrating the protection of this marine habitat and its value for biodiversity, science and people. 

“This is an excellent early example of DOC and iwi working in partnership to achieve shared conservation goals. It is fantastic that those goals are being achieved and the relationship is strong.

“I acknowledge and thank everyone involved for their work in protecting this special taonga for present and future generations, and the scientific research, and education on the marine environment which it has enabled,” said Eugenie Sage.

Te Taupuwae o Rongokako has been a valuable site for scientific research, particularly on crayfish, leading to a better understanding of their role in the marine ecosystem and the benefits of marine reserves in enhancing their numbers and size.

“The marine reserve has been invaluable for education. Improved road access to the beach has allowed school children to visit and learn about the importance of Tangaroa and what makes the sea special, through the Experiencing Marine Reserves programme.

Future plans involve DOC staff undertaking crayfish monitoring work and baited underwater video studies in the reserve to compare with the results of fish surveys.

“Today there are 44 marine reserves around New Zealand and offshore islands. I hope all New Zealanders can enjoy these beautiful treasures. We need more marine protected areas for healthy oceans and for fish, seabirds, dolphins, whales and other marine life to thrive,” Eugenie Sage said.