Opening of Taputeranga Marine Reserve

  • Steve Chadwick

I am delighted to be able to open this new marine reserve, on the doorstep of our capital city.

And what a wonderful start to Conservation Week!  This year’s theme for Conservation Week is “Meet the Locals, Tutakitia te Iwi Kainga”, and as the recent marine bioblitz showed, this new marine reserve contains a lot of exciting locals who are well worth meeting, including four new species never found anywhere else.

As the applicants recognised when they started the process in 1991, the Wellington south coast is an ideal location for a marine reserve.  Not only is it accessible to the people of Wellington, but it also has a number of marine science institutions and a unique marine environment. 

It is located where three oceanic currents meet, bringing together warm, cold temperate, and sub-Antarctic waters. This allows a rich and unusual variety of sea life to thrive, for example, roughly a third of the seaweed species found in New Zealand – around three to four hundred species – grow here.

By creating a marine reserve, we allow the marine environment to recover and function naturally.  It is easy for us to assume that our small activities – catching a few fish, collecting a few paua – are harmless. But the places we have completely protected, like Kapiti Marine Reserve, shows that the cumulative effect of many small activities can cause massive changes in the marine environment.  We need places where we can see what is natural, so we canjudge what we are doing elsewhere.  This marine reserve will be a paradise for Wellington marine scientists.

It will also be a paradise for Wellingtonians.  The south coast is already loved by families who come to explore the rock pools, enjoy the surf or visit the marine education centre, and by divers who delve deeper into its waters.  But in future it will be an even more exciting place to visit. 

At Leigh in Northland – New Zealand’s first reserve - you can now stand knee deep in water and be surrounded by large fish who no longer fear humans.  Sights long forgotten – large paua in shallow water, masses of crayfish in rock crevices – will be seen again here.

And that will benefit those using the rest of the coast for fishing.  Marine animals seldom stay in one place throughout their life cycle - crayfish migrate, the young of shellfish disperse over long distances.  The marine reserve will become a source to replenish nearby areas. 

I want to acknowledge all those who have been involved in making this marine reserve a possibility.  The applicants – the South Coast Marine Reserve Coalition and the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society – did a huge amount of work over many years. 

And I am also grateful to my colleague,s the Ministers of Transport and Fisheries, who gave their consent to the reserve, and my department, which provided me with excellent advice to support me as I considered the application.

But as well as those actively involved, I want to recognise the iwi, local community members and users of the coast who have been willing to shift some of their activities to other areas of the coast, in return for the benefits the reserve will provide to the wider Wellington community. 

I know that my predecessor was involved in extensive discussions about boundaries, and it is pleasing to see that there is wide acceptance of the final shape of the reserve.  I particularly want to note the recognition we gave to the importance of the Island Bay fishing community, which resulted in boundary adjustments, and the continued use of the Bay for mooring and rock lobster storage.

I also want to acknowledge the active involvement of iwi, community groups and the City Council in restoring the south coast and introducing Wellingtonians to its treasures.  A once neglected piece of coast is now recognised as the ideal destination on a fine weekend. 

Ongoing work both above and below high water will ensure that the south coast will be able to recover from past mistreatment.  And interpretation and education programmes are essential if we are to get the most we can from this wonderful new treasure.  I hope you will all take the opportunity to enjoy the special “meet the locals” events happening this afternoon.

Conservation of our natural and historic heritage is at the heart of what it means to be a New Zealander and this new marine reserve gives the public yet another opportunity to explore our spectacular natural world.

And as this is just the beginning of Conservation Week, a week when we celebrate all that is special in this country – the plants, the animals, the places, the people - I strongly encourage you to venture into our incredible outdoors, and enjoy one of the many events happening throughout the region, and around the country this week – as New Zealanders, we are so privileged to have such amazing wildlife right at our backdoor.

So without further ado I declare the Taputeranga Marine Reserve officially opened.