Rotorua Daily Post: Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary

Saturday, October 3, 2015

In Rotorua, we know how important our natural landscape is to our local economy. Our pristine environment is a big reason why visitors from overseas choose to visit our district and our country.

While there is an important balancing act between economic development and protection, we strongly believe environmental protection is also good for business.

Many industries that are important to our economy, such as tourism and agriculture, rely on New Zealand’s environment remaining clean and green. Having said that, we recognise that the need for legislation protecting the environment must be balanced with the interests of businesses, allowing them freedom to operate – without stifling jobs and growth.

Oceans cover almost three quarters of the world’s surface. We all need do our bit to look after them, and to preserve them. Pollution and over-fishing are placing increased pressure on the sea. It is home to half of the world’s species, yet currently only two per cent of it is protected.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister John Key announced the creation of a 620,000 square-kilometre ocean sanctuary in the Kermadec region, one of the most unique environments on earth. It will cover 15 per cent of New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone, an area twice the size of our landmass, and 50 times the size of our largest national park in Fiordland.

Once established,  the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary will be one of the world’s largest and most significant fully-protected areas. Situated 1,000 kilometres northeast of New Zealand, halfway between the Bay of Plenty and Tonga, the Kermadecs contain the world’s longest underwater volcanic arc and the second-deepest ocean trench in the world.

The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary will extend out to the 200 nautical mile limit of New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone, and will establish a fully-protected, “no take” zone where all mining, and all fishing is off limits. This will protect important habitats for seabirds, whales and dolphins, endangered marine turtles, and thousands of species of fish and other marine life.

This initiative reinforces New Zealand’s leadership in sustainable management of the marine environment. The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary will cover more than 35 times the combined area of our current marine reserves, and it’ll be the first time an area of our Exclusive Economic Zone will be fully protected.

The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary is right on our door step and these measures mean that the environment will be protected for future generations.

This new sanctuary is part of the National-led Government’s “Bluegreen” approach of balancing environmental protection with economic development. We need to use our ocean resources for jobs and exports with industries like fishing, aquaculture, minerals and energy, but we also need to set aside special areas where nature comes first and marine life is fully protected.