To: Hon Eugenie Sage, Minister of Conservation
Date: 25 May 2018
Department of Conservation’s Marine Protected Areas Policy and Implementation Plan 2005
At the New Zealand Conservation Authority’s (the Authority) April 2018 meeting the Department provided an update on Marine Protected Area (MPA) reform. The Authority strongly supports a review of the 2005 Marine Protected Areas Policy and Implementation Plan (the Policy) being undertaken. In March 2016, the Authority submitted on the MPA legislation1, and while we supported the need for reform, we considered the proposed changes lacked ambition, where not strategic and fell short of best practise. In particular, the decision to exclude the Exclusive Economic Zone was a major failing of the proposed reforms. The Authority spelt out improvements including the introduction of an overarching marine protection framework setting out the principles and goals for the management of the marine environment.
It is not surprising then that the Authority shares the Department’s view that the current Policy restricts progress on the protection of marine ecosystems and habitats. The Authority also believes the current framework is inadequately linked to the Resource Management Act 1991. This link is important because MPAs are often adjacent to the shoreline and therefore interact with the coastal strip. Additionally, where freshwater rivers open into a MPA – including coastal estuaries – it is necessary to consider the management of sediment, nutrient and microbial load before it is transferred into the marine protected area. Shoreline and freshwater system management both impact the quality of the MPA habitat – thus effective MPAs require consideration of both the coastal margin and, where applicable, the management of waterways entering a MPA.
Updating the Policy, and related guidance, will indicate where effective legislative change needs to occur in order to ensure New Zealand has an ecological sound, representative and sustainable network of MPAs. A well-designed Policy will work for the long-term conservation of nature protecting, internationally or nationally, outstanding, rare, and distinctive aspects within New Zealand’s MPA network objectives.
We also support the Department’s view that the existing information base on marine environments needs to be improved and that this work should be prioritised and done in conjunction with (and be informed by) the Policy review.
Dr Warren Parker