Date: 15 April 2013
An application for a marine reserve in Akaroa Harbour has been approved by Minister of Conservation Hon Dr Nick Smith and can now be referred to the Minister of Transport and the Minister for Primary Industries for their concurrence.
“The reserve will protect 10 % of Akaroa Harbour, helping to re-build fish stocks and provide spill-over benefits to fishers,” says Dr Smith.
“As well as benefitting the harbour’s rich marine wildlife, including Hector’s dolphins and white-flippered penguins, the spectacular reserve will enhance Akaroa’s nature-based tourism—a vital part of the area’s economy.”
In order to take account of customary fishing interests and recreational concerns, Dr Smith’s approval is subject to the northern boundary of the proposed reserve being altered. This alteration will reduce the size of the proposed marine reserve by 55 hectares, in the area closest to Ōnuku Marae, from 530 hectares to approximately 475 hectares.
The Minister also made clear his intention to direct the Department of Conservation to review the marine reserve 10 years after it comes into force.
“Having considered the application and relevant information and having listened to the views of key stakeholders, I am satisfied that the benefits of the proposed reserve outweigh its detriments,” says Dr Smith.
“Protecting this important marine area is in the best interest of scientific study and for the benefit of a wide range of harbour users and the public.”
Dr Smith’s decision follows his announcement of five new marine reserves on the West Coast last month which increased the area protected around mainland New Zealand from 33,574 to 51,102 hectares.
Within a marine reserve, all marine life is protected and fishing and the removal or disturbance of any living and non-living marine resource is prohibited.
The application for a marine reserve near Dan Rogers Bluff in Akaroa was first presented in January 1996, by the Akaroa Harbour Marine Protection Society.
The main objections raised were around the effects of a reserve on recreational fishing, and the loss of customary fishing and mana to local tangata whenua.
The process was put on hold by the lodging of an alternative marine reserve application in Flea Bay and the application for a Taiapure in Akaroa Harbour.
Pōhatu Marine Reserve was gazetted in 1999 and the Akaroa Taiapure was established in 2006, but excluded the area proposed for the ‘Dan Rogers’ marine reserve.
This allowed the Department of Conservation to resume the statutory process of considering the marine reserve application. A second round of public consultation generated 77 submissions, of which 25 were objections.
On 20 August 2010 the Hon Kate Wilkinson upheld objections under section 5(6)(d) of the Marine Reserves Act 1971 that declaring a marine reserve in Akaroa Harbour would interfere unduly with or adversely affect any existing use of the area for recreational purposes.
The Akaroa Harbour Marine Protection Society (Inc) sought judicial review of the Minister’s decision and on 8 May 2012 the High Court quashed the decision and directed the Minister to reconsider the assessment under that provision in light of the countervailing benefits of the proposed reserve.
In light of the High Court decision the Minister of Conservation was required to reconsider the original objections by recreational interests and the applicant’s answer to them against the relevant criterion set out in section (6)(d) of the Marine Reserves Act as well as any new or updated relevant information.
The Marine Reserves Act 1971 then requires the Minister to seek the concurrence of the Minister for Primary Industries and the Minister of Transport before making a recommendation to the Governor-General that the marine reserve be established by Order in Council.
- Akaroa marine reserve approved - media release on Beehive website
- Letter from Canterbury Conservator to marine reserve objectors (PDF, 34K)
Rachael Bruce, +64 21 841 087