We need to ensure New Zealand’s vast oceans are sustainably managed and protected to support a strong economy, a rich natural environment, and our great Kiwi lifestyle. We have good laws with our internationally recognised quota management system under the Fisheries Act 1996 and the Maritime Transport Act 1994. We had no system of environmental management for other maritime activities like mining or petroleum in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) until the Government passed the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012. The next step in improving New Zealand’s ocean management is to provide a better system of marine protected areas in the territorial sea.
We are proud it was a former National Government that passed the Marine Reserves Act in 1971. It was world leading then, but best practice in marine protection has developed significantly in the 40 years since. The Marine Reserves Act 1971 lacks flexibility by only allowing no-take marine reserves. The processes for creating and managing reserves do not work well for local communities, iwi/Māori or business.
These problems have meant that governments have repeatedly resorted to special legislation to put protection in place in areas like the Sugar Loaf Islands, Subantarctic Islands, Kaikōura and Fiordland, or used tools like fisheries closures under the Fisheries Act that provide only limited protection. This approach is inefficient, confusing and is not working.
This reform proposes four different types of marine protected areas, just as we have different types of parks and reserves for different purposes on land.
Marine reserves would be the same as under the current Marine Reserves Act 1971, being strictly protected with the purpose of conserving biodiversity in its natural state.
Species-specific sanctuaries would be similar to marine mammal sanctuaries but would also be available to other marine life like albatross or great white sharks, with rules focused on the specific protection needs of that species.
Seabed reserves would protect areas of the sea floor and would include prohibitions on seabed mining, bottom trawl fishing and dredging.
Recreational fishing parks would recognise that there are areas where the recreational fishing experience could be improved by providing a preference for non- commercial fishing for some species.
These different types of marine protected areas would be managed under a new and improved Act of Parliament. This would enable an integrated approach where a community can simultaneously consider different types of protection.
The proposed new law would require an analysis of the economic potential of an area, so the opportunities and costs of any new protected areas are openly considered. It would also encourage a collaborative approach to develop protected areas where iwi/Māori and interested parties, like fishers, conservation interests and industry, get to work together on better management of our marine environment.
Law reform in this area is difficult and previous attempts have been unsuccessful. There are strongly competing public and private interests as well as multiple government agencies involved. This new approach seeks to find a way forward that recognises the need for a balance between New Zealand taking up the economic opportunities for jobs and growth while also ensuring the right framework is in place for reserves, sanctuaries and recreational parks in the marine environment.
Alongside our ambition for improving the framework for marine protection tools, for the long term, we are also advancing specific proposals in the Kermadecs, Hauraki Gulf and the Marlborough Sounds.
The Prime Minister announced the 620,000 square kilometre Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary at the United Nations on 29 September 2015. Applications for seabed mining activities requiring decisions meant the Government needed to resolve its position on the future of this area. This Sanctuary will be created by separate legislation. The general marine protection tools in this consultation document do not include the EEZ, with the proposed Sanctuary covering 16 per cent of the EEZ. Other EEZ proposals may be considered but, given the size and significance of the EEZ, would need to be advanced by specific legislation.
We also announced during the 2014 election campaign our policy of creating two recreational fishing parks in the inner Hauraki Gulf and Marlborough Sounds. These proposals will be delivered as part of this legislative reform, and we are seeking feedback on the details. These two recreational fishing parks are about enhancing the opportunity for recreational fishing in two of our most popular areas.
We welcome your input into these ideas for improving management of New Zealand’s marine environment.
Hon Nathan Guy
Hon Maggie Barry
Hon Dr Nick Smith