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Wellington Marine Reserve

Marine reserve opening delayed till next year

Article by Kerry Williamson, Dominion Post

1 October 2007

The long-awaited opening of a marine reserve on Wellington's south coast has been delayed till next year, angering proponents who say protection of the area cannot come soon enough.

The delay has been blamed on the gazetting process - as well as a desire to have the opening fit the prime minister's schedule and the hope of good weather.

"The longer we wait, this allows another summer of rape and pillage," said Ben Knight, a local diver and marine conservationist. "It's already had a hammering - it's time to stop."

Conservation Department officials had hoped the 840-hectare Kupe/Kevin Smith Marine Reserve would be surveyed and gazetted in time for a November opening. However, that has been pushed back till at least March.

Rob Stone, the department's area manager for Poneke, said an official opening would be held in March to coincide with National Sea Week.

"It's a pretty complex process and there are a number of agencies involved in it. We are still working through the mechanical parts of the process."

The department was aware of the plan's long and often controversial history, but urged people to be patient.

The marine reserve was approved by Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton and Conservation Minister Chris Carter last December, despite opposition from commercial fishermen and local iwi concerned about their customary harvesting rights.

It has long been tangled in red tape and Ngati Toa have not yet withdrawn an application for a judicial review.

Mr Stone said he was unaware of any major issues holding up the opening of the reserve but added the process took time. "There are still people who are opposed to the marine reserve and that will probably be the case for a while," he said. "It's just really complicated. The coastline has got quite a high level of infrastructure and we need to define all these things."

Colin Ryder, spokesman for the South Coast Marine Reserve Coalition, was not fazed by the delay - as long as the reserve is opened soon.

"We would quite like to get the whole thing done and dusted so people can start enjoying it," he said. "But if the politicians want to do it to fit in with their agendas, then that's fine."

Mr Knight said he had dived in the area for several years and saw the need for the creation of a reserve.

"I've seen a massive decline in fish stocks and cray-potters are going harder on it than ever. Putting (the opening) off is wrong."


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