by Gareth Hughes
The Dan Rogers marine reserve in Akaroa Harbour has recently been approved by Conservation Minister Nick Smith which is a good step for marine conservation but raises many wider issues and questions.
It’s good to see another marine reserve created, even if it was shrunk by Smith, because it’s only the second on the east coast of the South island. It only took 17 years and taking the Government to the High Court to see it finally achieved!
Many of the locals including the tourist sector will be over joyed, and I’d like to congratulate the Akaroa Marine Protection Society and in particular Brian and Kathleen Reid who advocated for the reserve since 1996. It’s incredible the amount of commitment, patience and fortitude they have demonstrated.
It was disappointing when then-Conservation minister Kate Wilkinson originally declined the reserve and I thought grossly insensitive to then go on a pleasure cruise of the area with the Blue Greens which I protested…underwater. A High Court judge then found Wilkinson had made an ”error of law” in rejecting the 1996 proposal which has led to Smith reconsidering.
It’s good to see a small sliver of conservation coming from this Government, which this term has been toxic to the environment: cutting DoCs budget and slashing staff; walking out of the Kyoto 2 climate agreement; and focusing on a ‘drill it, mine it’ frack it’ agenda. To put it in context though, this reserve plus the five West Coast and Subantarctic reserves yet to take effect, take the percentage of New Zealand’s waters in marine reserve to only 0.41% – far short of our 10% target.
Local iwi were against the reserve and would have preferred a taiapure management regime. This highlights the conflicts between full no-take reserves and traditional fishery management tools.
The local conflict, the length of time and mammoth undertaking just to see this small reserve enacted highlights the urgent need to improve law. The Marine Reserves Bill seeking to update the original act 1971, languished in select committee there since 2002 till late last year earning a place in NZ political history as the second-longest bill ever before a select committee. It’s time to hurry up and modernise our marine reserves laws and take greater account of traditional management tools in a conservation context.