Akaroa Harbour marine reserve welcome news

Gareth has previously posted about the Dan Rogers marine reserve in Akaroa Harbour.  Living on Banks Peninsula and having helped promote the reserve I wanted to share my thoughts and thank and congratulate the reserve applicants, Kathleen and Brian Reid and the Akaroa Harbour Marine Protection Society who When the Government is opening up conservation land to more mining and attacking the RMA it’s good to be reminded about what tenacity and standing up for nature can achieve.

Kathleen and Brian Reid applied for a marine reserve at the Dan Rogers site close to the entrance of Akaroa Harbour more than 17 years ago, in December 1995. Despite many obstacles they kept their vision alive to protect the dramatic sea cave, underwater cliffs and harbour waters and have finally seen the Minister of Conservation agree.

Along the way Kathleen and Brian have politely overcome opposition from recreational fishers, kept the project alive through a Maori Land Court process, and took a High Court case to successfully challenge former Conservation Minister, Kate Wilkinson’s decision to decline the reserve application.  Others would have been daunted. They kept going and everyone who cares about the marine conservation has much to thank them for.

The reserve will protect the sea cave and underwater bluffs which are a legacy of the harbour’s volcanic history. On the surface the waves drag at giant kelp, Hector’s dolphin can delight visitors by riding the bow waves of vessels and New Zealand fur seals can haul out on rock platforms in the area.  Underwater, there are huge room sized boulders at the base of the sea with rocks encrusted with a colourful mosaic of coralline algae, sponges, sea tulips, hydroids and sea squirts.

Around 10 % of Akaroa harbour will be protected by the reserve. It will complement the Akaroa Harbour taiapure established in 2006 over nearly 90% of the harbour to enable Maori customary use and management. In 2005 a decision by the Māori Land Court meant that the reserve site was excluded from the taiapure.

Marine reserves have been established beside taiapure elsewhere, such as Horoirangi near Nelson. It might not be the optimal solution and we need to look at better ways to provide for both Māori and Pākehā marine management in an integrated way.

The reserve site is already popular with tourism operators. Its protection will consolidate Akaroa’s reputation as a nature tourism destination where visitors can go sea kayaking, swim with dolphins and take wildlife tours to see Hector’s dolphin, spotted shags and white flippered penguin.

Dan Rogers reserve is only the second marine reserve on the South Island’s east coast. At  475 ha, neither it nor the nearby 250 ha Pohatu marine reserve on Banks Peninsula are large. The fact that it has taken 17 years to establish shows we need to do much better for marine conservation.  With Dan Rogers,  New Zealand only has 35 marine reserves.  There were no new marine reserves gazetted in 2009/10 and 2010/11 and only one in 2011/12.

We need more collaborative marine protection forums such as those which developed marine protection options for the Sub-Antarctic Islands and the South Island’s West Coast. And we urgently need new marine reserves legislation which encourages marine protection for a broader range of reasons than just scientific study.

One thought on “Akaroa Harbour marine reserve welcome news

  1. There’s two ways to look at this good news:

    1/ Man, it’s hard to get a marine reserve

    2/ Wow, they managed to get a marine reserve despite all the opposition and an environment protection adverse government

    Hopefully the second more optimistic reading suggests a few more marine reserves in future even if the opposition remains strong, and quite a few more if a more poltical environment becomes more positive

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