Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith today announced the appointment of a 14-member community-led forum to consider marine protection for the Otago coastline.
"New Zealand has a nationwide network of marine reserves. However, Otago stands out as being the only region in the country without a marine protected area. This is despite its spectacular coastline being home to some of our most endangered species such as the yellow-eyed penguin, the northern royal albatross and the New Zealand sea lion," Dr Smith says.
The 14 members are: Maree Baker-Galloway (chair), Neville Peat, Sue Maturin, Philippa Agnew, Fergus Sutherland, Nelson Cross, Tim Ritchie, Carol Scott, Simon Gilmour, Ate Heineman, Dr Chris Hepburn, Steph Blair, Edward Ellison and John Henry.
"The 14 members of this Forum, to be chaired by senior environmental lawyer Maree Baker-Galloway, include representatives from the local community, conservation groups, the fishing, tourism and minerals industries and Ngāi Tahu, as well as academics from the University of Otago.
"The Forum will focus on the coastline between Timaru to Waipapa point. It is my ambition that this group will follow the success models of forums that have established marine protection in areas such as Fiordland, the West Coast and the Subantarctic Islands, and that in time, this group can come to a consensus around the marine protection options for this special part of New Zealand's coast.
"It is part of the National-led Government's 'blue-green' agenda to take a collaborative approach to marine protection where we seek to involve all key stakeholders at the beginning of the process and try to build broad community agreement. We also want a balanced programme where some ocean areas are used to support New Zealand's economic development and others are set aside for permanent protection."
The Forum will convene shortly, with the expectation that its recommendations will be delivered to the Government in early 2016.