16 June 2023: The NZCA is a strong advocate for greater marine protection in areas throughout Aotearoa New Zealand and is now urging for the development of new tools for marine protection.

The New Zealand Conservation Authority is dismayed that protection of New Zealand’s marine environments is failing, because as a country we do not have mechanisms that are suitable for Aotearoa today.

News that iwi organisations with Te Ohu Kaimoana have voted to overwhelmingly reject the Kermadec Sanctuary demonstrates that a completely fresh approach is needed. 

Currently the primary tool for marine protection is the Marine Reserves Act. It is 52 years old, and despite plans to review it since at least the early 2000s, no concrete progress has been made. While marine reserves can be fantastic for biodiversity, they are a blunt tool that many Māori see as imposing Crown ownership of the protected area. They do not fit with a bicultural approach to marine conservation.

New Zealand’s nature and protected conservation areas are world-renowned and deserve protection and investment to sustain them over time.

Authority Chair, Edward Ellison said: “The New Zealand Conservation Authority supports the urgent development of marine protection tools that are consistent with te ao Māori and the Treaty. These future tools must enable indigenous leadership, be evidence-based, and equip us to achieve our ocean protection targets.  There are so many local and international examples we can learn from.”

In 2022 New Zealand joined a global deal for nature - an initiative to protect 30% of land and oceans by 2030. Currently only a small fraction of that area is fully protected. The New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy 2020 (Te Mana o Te Taiao) also includes ambitious goals for marine protection.  Those goals are critical for halting the loss of marine biodiversity, particularly in the face of climate change. “But we have not got a hope of meeting these objectives without the tools to achieve protection of the marine environment,” said Ellison.

“At our meeting today, the Authority resolved to advise the Minister of Conservation that development of marine protection tools fit for a 21st century Aotearoa should be elevated to be a top priority for the Department.”

Background information

The New Zealand Conservation Authority / Te Pou Atawhai Taiao O Aotearoa was established under the Conservation Act 1987, with members appointed by the Minister of Conservation. The NZCA has a role as an objective advocate on conservation matters of national significance and interest. It provides high quality independent advice to the Minister and the Director-General of Conservation on its strategic direction and performance

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