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Wellington Marine Reserve

Marine Reserve back on Agenda

Article by Nick Churchouse

27 October 2005


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 Toa.

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.

Wellington Recreational 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."

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