Conservation Minister Nick Smith speaks in Dunedin
yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Plans for a community-led forum to develop a marine
protected area along Otago's coast have been met with
scepticism by scientists and fishermen.
The 14-member forum ''with strong links to the southern
marine region'' would be formed by the end of this year,
Conservation Minister Nick Smith announced at the
Conservation Inc conference in Dunedin yesterday.
Dr Smith said his aim in the next year was to have 10 more
marine reserves in New Zealand, increasing the area of ocean
protected by 50%.
Otago was the only area in New Zealand to not have any marine
protection. There are mataitai reserves protecting customary
fishing areas at Karitane and an application for one on Otago
Harbour still to be decided.
''I say to Otagoites, I think it is out of character. Here
you are flag-bearers and trail-blazers.
''My challenge to people of Dunedin and Otago is, it is time
you made some progress in marine protection.''
The failed Nugget Point marine reserve application in the
early 2000s was a good example of ''how not to do it'' and
the 20-year process to settle Akaroa's was another.
The way to advance the process was to get all the players in
one room to collectively work out where it should go, he
Membership of the forum, which would consult the public,
should include representatives from commercial and
recreational fishing, scientists, conservationists and Ngai
Tahu and be supported by Doc and the Ministry for Primary
It was to be established by the end of this year and present
its recommendations to Government by 2015, he said.
Otago University marine scientist Assoc Prof Abby Smith, the
former chairwoman of the Otago Conservation Board who has
been critical of Otago's lack of a protected area, was
delighted by the news but the outcome from a similar process
on the West Coast was a much smaller reserve than hoped for.
''If you try and make everyone happy, you end up with a
marine reserve that is too small. That is the biggest
While the direct approach did not work from a political point
of view, the collaborative process often meant the
''ugliest'' areas were protected rather than the most
ecologically important, she said.
No-one had done a very good job at convincing fishermen that
by protecting an area along the coast, they got a healthier
and better ocean to fish in, she said.
''What is important is to do the best for the marine
Local recreational fisherman Ted Young, who has represented
fishermen at a national level in the past, said any protected
area would detrimentally affect recreational fishermen.
Port Chalmers Fishing co-operative chairman Ant Smith said
the co-operative would want to be involved in the process and
hoped Nugget Point would not be ''raked over'' again, as
stances against that idea had not changed.
Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust spokeswoman Lala Frazer said the
trust had been calling for a protected area for a long time
and would love to see one established. It would like to see a
protected area around its Long Point reserve in the Catlins
as it would attract more sea birds, she said.