The Ministers today released the final report of the South East Marine Protection Forum. The Forum is an independent body established by the previous government in 2014. It includes representatives of Kāi Tahu as manawhenua, commercial and recreational fishers, tourism, science, the environmental sector, and the broader community.
The report provides two alternative networks of marine protected areas off the coast from Timaru in South Canterbury, to Waipapa Point in Southland.
In late 2016, the Forum consulted with the public, industry and stakeholders on 20 sites for possible inclusion in a network of marine protected areas.
"The Forum has worked hard to produce a thorough and comprehensive report. We would like to thank Forum members for their work over three years, their dedication to a collaborative process and the significant contribution the report makes to advancing marine protection," Ms Sage said.
"There was strong public involvement in the Forum process with more than 2,800 submissions received during public consultation."
Mr Nash acknowledged the work of the former Ministers for Primary Industries and Conservation who began the process in 2014.
"This has been a long and demanding process over three and a half years. While it has not always been easy for participants I acknowledge the time and effort that has been invested," Mr Nash said.
"Forum members were given a challenging task and their final report and recommendations reflect the variety of perspectives on marine protection. They spent a great deal of time considering the best ways to protect our marine life and marine environments. I am grateful for their work and for the efforts of those who made submissions during the process.
"I understand that some, but not all fishing representatives, subsequently asked for more work to be done after the recommendations had been finalised and agreed. I do not believe that is necessary. We are happy with the quality of the report and the robust and demanding process followed by the Forum.
"In the end the report reflects the diverse range of views. We will now carefully consider the Forum's recommendations," said Mr Nash.
The Forum has proposed two alternative networks to the Ministers:
• Network 1 - covers 1267 km2 of the Forum region and includes 18 of the 22 coastal habitats in the Forum region, seven of 12 estuarine habitats and two biogenic habitats.
• Network 2 – covers 366 km2 of the Forum region, includes 10 of the 22 coastal habitats, no estuarine habitats and two biogenic habitats.
"Marine protected areas (MPAs) are vital to protect important habitats and feeding areas for marine mammals, birds, fish and invertebrates," Ms Sage said.
"New Zealand's marine environment is 15 times larger than its land mass and it's important this is safeguarded for future generations."
The Forum's report provides detailed recommendations. It also explains the broader cultural and customary contexts of the marine habitats, as well as the economic, social and environmental considerations it took into account. The Ministers will now work through the next steps, which involves consultation with colleagues and agencies.
The Ministers said it was not yet clear what steps would be needed if new marine protections are required for the South Island's south east coast. Before any changes are made to existing protections, they would seek the views of all parties in Parliament and invite public submissions.
View the report on the South East Marine Protection Forum website.