Reserve back on Agenda
by Nick Churchouse
Progress is finally
being made on Wellington's proposed southern marine reserve, but
opponents are vowing to tie it up in the courts if it is approved.
The Taputeranga Marine
Reserve application is back on the to-do list at the Fisheries Ministry,
after three years on hold because of legal challenges from Ngati
The application is likely
to be put before Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton before the end
of the year, but opponents of the reserve say it will be a long
time before they will allow it to go ahead.
The 969-hectare reserve would
stretch from Te Raekaihau Point to Owhiro Bay, and encompass some
of Wellington's most popular fishing and diving spots.
The location of the frigate
Wellington, to be sunk next month as an artificial reef and attraction
for divers, would be within the reserve.
Fishing Council secretary Max Hetherington said the government departments
involved were well aware of the concerns of recreational fishermen,
who would be prohibited from taking anything from the reserve.
If Mr Anderton chose to
approve the reserve, the decision would be challenged in court,
he said. No marine reserve application has ever been declined and
Mr Hetherington was picking this one to be the same. "The only
way to get them declined, it seems, is to take it to court.
"I'm hoping we don't
have to waste our money, I'm hoping the minister of fisheries is
going to see sense."
Ministry spokesman Randall
Bess said the application was being looked at now and he expected
it would take about two months to get to the minister, less if further
consultation was not necessary.
But the minister's office
said it was unsure when Mr Anderton, who is new to the fisheries
portfolio, would be able to look at the application.
There are three other proposed
marine reserves already awaiting his attention.
The South Coast Marine
Reserve Coalition, which made the original application, said all
the issues had been resolved and it was keen for the ministry to
process the reserve proposal.
"As far as we're concerned
it should be a relatively straightforward process, but that's up
to them to decide," spokesman Andrew Cutler said.
In 2002 the reserve was
approved by Sandra Lee, who was then conservation minister, but
concerns from Ngati Toa about the application process led to a three-year
hold-up as the iwi sought a judicial review.
Ngati Toa chief executive
Matiu Rei said the tribe had no problem with the reserve itself,
but was incensed with "untruths" in the application.
"We feel that the
applicants tried to write our history for us to circumvent any possible
intervention by the tribe."
He could not rule out further
intervention. "We'll have to see what happens."