Delay in creation of forum queried

Sue Murray.
Sue Murray.
Nearly five months after Conservation Minister Nick Smith announced he was creating a forum to discuss creating a marine protected area off Otago's coast, it has not eventuated.

Dr Smith told a conference last October it was time the region had some marine protection and a forum was to be established by the end of 2013 to present its findings to the Government by 2015.

A call went out soon after for nominations to the Otago Marine Protection Planning Forum and 58 nominations were received from throughout the South Island by its close in November.

Those who support the formation of the forum have heard little since.

When the Otago Daily Times requested information from Dr Smith's office on what the delay was, it was told: ''We are nearing the end of [the] appointment process for the Otago MPA forum.''

An announcement on the matter would be made in ''due course'', a spokeswoman said.

Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust general manager Sue Murray said it was disappointing the process was taking longer than the trust had been led to believe.

''We had hoped it would be up and operating by this time.''

It would like to understand why the deadlines Dr Smith gave at the conference had not been met, she said.

Associate Prof Abby Smith, head of the University of Otago's marine science department and former Otago Conservation Board chairwoman, said every day there was no progress on marine protection was another day for Otago's biodiversity values to degrade.

Taiaroa Head operations manager Hoani Langsbury said given the number of nominations and that it would be a long-term process, it was not surprising it was taking longer than expected.

''It's better to get it right up front and get the right people, and make the appropriate appointments.''


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