Foreign Affairs Minister speech to Ross Sea MPA launch

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. It is a pleasure to welcome you here this evening to celebrate the Ross Sea region Marine Protected Area coming into effect.


We thank members of the Templeton family for being here this evening to share Malcolm’s significant contribution to ensuring New Zealand’s diplomatic efforts on the governance of Antarctica are recorded. 


The broad Antarctic treaty system is a unique arrangement for a unique place.


Most critically, it ensures Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are reserved for peaceful purposes.


For reasons that are perhaps deeper than our territorial claim in the Ross Dependency, New Zealand and New Zealanders feel a strong sense of connection to Antarctica and its surrounding oceans.


This, at least in part, prompted New Zealand to partner with the United States to convince all 23 other members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, or CCAMLR [pronounced Cam-lar], to agree to create what is now the largest protected area in the world, on land or sea.


So it is important to acknowledge the representatives of those other member states who are here tonight. We all share in this achievement.


Its magnitude should not be understated. For starters, 14 of those countries – including New Zealand ­– fish in the Southern Ocean. To establish a marine protected area that has the consensus of all members was a fantastic result.


It is a testament to New Zealand’s leadership, collaboration, and diplomacy.


And of course, also to the United States - our closest partner in Antarctica.


The US programme is a long-standing and warmly received resident of Christchurch, which is a gateway to the Antarctic for a number of countries.


The collaboration to set up the Ross Sea region MPA extends to science and conservation as well.


A robust scientific case is fundamental to the MPA. And science will remain of critical importance. It will be the basis for justifying the MPA’s existence beyond its initial 35 year timeframe.


A plan is now in place to guide research to do this, and so that the protection the MPA offers can be strengthened if it needs to be.


Part of this scientific work is undertaken by the Ministry for Primary Industries through its assessment of Antarctic Toothfish stock in the Ross Sea.


But it can only do this thanks to the efforts of the seafood industry in tagging and releasing some of its catch and in conducting dedicated research surveys.


Representatives from Sanford and Talleys are here tonight. We acknowledge your contribution.


Additionally NIWA, universities, and other CCAMLR members make significant contributions to the scientific understanding of the Ross Sea.


The passionate advocacy of environmental NGOs for this special environment has been, and remains, vital to its survival.


The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry for Primary Industries, and the Department of Conservation all take part in the Commission’s annual decision-making meetings.


Officials from all these agencies played a pivotal role in securing agreement for this MPA. Some of you are here tonight, so thank you for the work you’ve done and continue to do.


The New Zealand Defence Force and the Ministry of Defence are also involved through New Zealand’s leading role in monitoring the fishing fleet in the Ross Sea.


Just last weekend the HMNZS Otago left Dunedin headed for the Southern Ocean for this year’s patrol.


So you can see why collaboration is such a key theme of marine protection in the Southern Ocean.


But, you can’t get consensus without goodwill and compromise. This requires artful diplomacy – and good timing.


The significant effort and dedication to the MPA of the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon Murray McCully, must be acknowledged.

As many of you will know, the MPA negotiations came down to the wire last year, and it was engagement at the highest levels in Moscow and Washington that saw the window of opportunity open. It was then up to the negotiators on the ground to work quickly to ensure the five years of purposeful, patient work was brought to fruition.


The end result shows real commitment by all the members of the Commission to protect this unique and globally significant area.


And there is now further appetite to create a network of marine protected areas across the Southern Ocean.


New Zealand will actively support this goal, including sharing our experiences as we continue to lead from the front.


Thank you all for coming this evening, and thank you for your support for a marine protected area in the pristine oceans of the Ross Sea region.