Representatives of leading environmental groups have reaffirmed their strong support for the proposed Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary.
The groups include Greenpeace, WWF, Forest & Bird, the Environmental Defence Society and Ecologic.
Greenpeace Executive Director Dr Russel Norman said that he backed the Government’s determination to create the Sanctuary in spite of strong resistance from the fishing industry.
“The Kermadec proposal will be the largest ever marine protected area in our jurisdiction. It will have immense ecological benefits, allowing marine life in 15% of our Exclusive Economic Zone to prosper without any form of commercial exploitation,” said Dr Norman.
WWF-New Zealand’s Senior Campaigner, Alex Smith, said that fishing industry lobbyists had consistently opposed the creation of no-take marine reserves so the current opposition was not unexpected.
“New Zealand has obligations under international law to protect the marine environment that surrounds us. The Government is entirely within its rights to create marine protected areas like the Kermadec/Rangitāhua Ocean Sanctuary,” said Mr Smith.
“The Sanctuary is backed by solid science and by 89% of New Zealanders. We urge the fishing industry to break away from its traditional opposition to full marine protection and get behind this initiative.”
Forest & Bird spokesperson Kevin Hackwell said that no government has done, or could do, a deal in relation to our fisheries management system that would compromise the country’s international obligations regarding the EEZ.
“The sustainable management of our oceans requires us to set aside some areas that are fully protected,” said Mr Hackwell.
The Environmental Defence Society is also supportive of the Sanctuary and has applied to join the two fishing industry High Court proceedings that are challenging the creation of the Sanctuary.
“We consider that both sets of proceedings have little or no legal merit and that the claims that are being made by the industry through the media do not stand up in law,” said EDS Chairman Gary Taylor.
“The sector is trying to bully the Government into reneging on the Kermadec proposal. The fishing sector is behaving in a self-serving way and ignoring the wider public interest in conservation of our marine environment.”
The Executive Director of Ecologic, long-time environmentalist Guy Salmon, said that it was great to see the Prime Minister holding firm.
“This is the biggest conservation gain for our oceans in my lifetime and is of international importance,” he said.
“I don’t believe the Sanctuary involves a breach of property rights, and that claim will now be tested in Court.”