By: Imogen Edwards
Published: 15/02/2016
In January 2016, the Ministers for Primary Industries, Conservation, and the Environment announced plans to improve the management of New Zealand's oceans by implementing a revised system of marine protected areas designed to improve and build upon management systems which already exist.
 
Why Is Protection Necessary?
Marine protected areas (MPAs) are used to protect the marine and coastal environment, and as a Party to the United Nations' Convention on Biological Diversity, New Zealand is committed to creating a network of MPAs.

The Ministers consider that the current framework of the Marine Reserves Act is too restrictive when it comes to meeting its international obligations and providing adequate protection. The Ministers propose to repeal and replace the Marine Reserves Act with the new Act. The Marine Reserves Act does not provide for the establishment of a reserve, unless there is an intention to conduct scientific studies.

Other issues include limited coordination within the process of establishing a reserve; from undertaking consultation to considering alternatives, from minimising costs to maximising economic and environmental benefits, and to providing opportunities for involvement and development to local iwi and Maori.
 
What's Proposed?
Under the new Act it is proposed that New Zealand will have four different types of marine protected areas; marine reserves, species-specific sanctuaries, seabed reserves, and recreational fishing parks. Below is a brief summary of each proposed area.

Marine Reserves
Marine reserves (managed by the Department of Conservation) will provide the highest level of protection whereby no fishing, or petroleum, or minerals activity can take place within the reserve.

Species-specific Sanctuary
The intention of a species-specific sanctuary is to preserve and protect a named species while providing for sustainable use within that sanctuary. These sanctuaries will be managed by the Department of Conservation, with certain activities restricted or prohibited based on factors such as the ecology of the protected species, the components of the particular ecosystem, and any specific protection objectives desired by the community.

Seabed Reserves
Seabed reserves will fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry for the Environment to control activities that affect the seabed. Although some areas of the seabed are already protected under the Fisheries Act 1996, they are only protected from the effects of bottom trawling and dredging (see the Fisheries (Benthic Protection Areas) Regulations 2007). A seabed reserve will prohibit seabed mining, bottom trawl fishing, and dredging in these areas.
 
Recreational Fishing Park
These parks are intended to enhance recreational fishing by targeting commercial fishing activities. Commercial fishing of the main recreational species will generally be prohibited in these areas, although customary fishing will continue and parks may provide for the commercial fishing of certain species. Marine farming will be unaffected and some petroleum or minerals activities may be permitted.
Recreational fishing parks will be managed by the Ministry for Primary Industries and all fishing activities will continue to be managed under the Fisheries Act. Two such parks have been proposed; one in the Hauraki Gulf and the other in Marlborough Sounds.
It is anticipated that a specific compensation system will be developed whereby compensation will be available on a case by case basis, if it is determined that there is a significant impact on commercial fishing.
 
Implementation
Overall, it is intended that the reforms will provide an integrated approach to the management of the marine area.

To achieve such integration, the Conservation, Primary Industries, Environment, and Maori Development Ministers will automatically be involved in every MPA proposal, with input from other Ministers, if appropriate, to determine whether a proposal should be advanced further.
 
The Government has recognised that to achieve maximum protection of NZ's marine areas in addition to balancing commercial, recreational and cultural interests, improved knowledge is key, as is increasing the involvement of Maori and iwi.

As such, the new Act will provide for Maori representation throughout all stages of the marine protection processes, ensure arrangements are made to provide for non-commercial customary fishing practices, and maintain those interests already recognised under the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011.
 
Want to be Involved?
At this stage, the Government is seeking feedback on the consultation document, which forms the basis of this article, and can be accessed via the Ministry for the Environment's website: www.mfe.govt.nz
Submissions on the Government's proposal can also be made through the website, and are due by 5pm on Friday 11 March 2016.
 
Imogen Edwards, Solicitor
Wynn Williams
15 February 2016
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