Forest & Bird (BirdLife in New Zealand) said today it welcomed the upcoming official opening of the Tawharanui Marine Reserve north of Auckland but warned it was a drop in the ocean compared with what is needed to give adequate protection to New Zealand’s marine life.
Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson is due to officially open the Tawharanui Marine Reserve north of Auckland on Sunday. The opening follows years of campaigning by the Auckland Regional Council (now the Auckland Council) and local groups for the reserve.
“There has been a no-take zone in the marine park at Tawharanui since 1981 – so there will be no practical change to the level of protection, but changing its status to a reserve will make the rules clearer to everyone,” Forest & Bird’s marine advocate Katrina Subedar said.
“We welcome the opening but we have to remember less than one percent of New Zealand’s marine environment within our exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is fully protected,” she said.
This compares with the Department of Conservation’s control of around a third of New Zealand’s landmass.
The release on Wednesday of proposed legislation to provide some environmental controls on mining and oil drilling in the waters of New Zealand’s EEZ and the wider continental shelf highlights the need for more areas to be given full protection as the pressure for development increases.
A marine reserve in the territorial waters around the Kermadec Islands must be expanded to ensure the protection of the stunning biodiversity in those waters, Katrina Subedar said.
Forest & Bird supports the creation of reserves because they give marine life a haven free from threats such as overfishing, damaging fishing methods and coastline development.
Nothing is allowed to be taken from marine reserves, although diving, swimming, boating, and any other activities that don’t harm marine life are permitted.
A survey released by WWF-New Zealand in May showed most New Zealanders don’t realise how little of our marine environment is protected and it also highlighted they want more protection. Forest & Bird believes at least 30 percent of should be fully protected to ensure the health of our marine environment.
The government has frozen the process to develop a network of marine protected areas around New Zealand, meaning that the vast majority our seas are not being systematically assessed for protection.
Forest & Bird is supporting an alternative Maori-led initiative to set up a rahui tapu at the Mimiwhangata Marine Park in Northland. A rahui tapu would create a no-take area.
This would be jointly administered by the local hapu and community, to restore fish and other life to the degraded waters around Mimiwhangata, Katrina Subedar said.