Creation of a marine protected area in Otago is likely to
cost at least $850,000.
A 14-member forum has been set up to find options for areas
along Otago's coast that could be protected.
Conservation Minister Nick Smith said no fixed budget for the
process had been set but $500,000 had been allocated in the
next financial year to support the forum.
On the West Coast, the process took eight years and $850,000.
Dr Smith said he expected the Otago process to cost a similar
It was difficult to set a budget with such a collaborative
process and without knowing how much scientific information
it would require to make its recommendations, he said.
''Previous forums in Kaikoura and the West Coast and the
subantarctic, the budgets have varied as the process
Funding would continue as long as the forum was making
progress towards its goal, he said.
''I won't be surprised if it may vary significantly from it.
I'm relaxed. To some extent, it is how long is a piece of
string?''Given Otago's status as the only region without
marine protection - but home to some of the country's special
wildlife - Dr Smith wanted to ensure the process was properly
The $500,000 would come out of the Department of
Conservation's budget and included employing staff, forum
members' meeting fees, and science required from outside the
The forum had been given two years to come up with the
options, which was more ambitious than previous
marine-protected area processes, but the aim was still to
find an option that had wide ''buy-in'' from the community,
''Debate around marine protection can be very divisive for
communities, but I'm confident we can come to a successful
Forum leader Maree Baker-Galloway said the forum's first
meeting would be held at the end of June and would require
members to approve how it was going to operate.
She would propose a two-day meeting every month, at venues
around the region. The meetings would be open to the public
but could go into private discussions.
The aim was to gather as much information on the marine
environment and coastline as possible from a wide variety of
sources so the forum could come up with an option or options
for a protected area within a year, she said.
Three staff members would be sought. One would cover
communications and consultation, another project
co-ordination, and the other would help with technical and
information technology processes.
A website and social media sites were being set up, to give
the public other ways to interact with the forum.