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''I think it does reflect a bit of an academic perspective,'' he said when contacted yesterday.
Dr Smith said previous governments had tried to create marine reserves in Otago and Southland but community opposition had stifled proposals.
''There has been real difficulty in getting progress on marine reserves around the east coast in both Otago and Southland.
''Ultimately, marine reserves can only work where we've built community support and we've got a job to do in Otago and Southland to persuade people of the merits of marine conservation.''
Dr Smith said the Government would establish 10 marine reserves in the next year, and although none were in Otago, it proved the Government was serious about marine conservation.
Simultaneously, the Government had to balance its books and conservation could not be exempt from ''trims'' to public spending, he said.
The conservation budget of about $340 million was being cut by about $4 million - roughly 1% - next year, Dr Smith said.