Verve Article - November 2015

Friday, November 13, 2015

Preserving the Kermadecs

Most of my Verve columns talk about the economy or about pressing social issues like health, education or housing.   Raising living standards is a central concern of government.

Another central concern is to preserve what is special about New Zealand and this part of the world.  

The quality of our environment is a big part of who we are.  And a third of the land mass of New Zealand is devoted to national parks.

But of course we’re also surrounded by oceans.  We all need to 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 2 per cent of it is protected.

Recently at the United Nations, the Prime Minister John Key announced the creation of a 620,000 square-kilometre ocean sanctuary in the Kermadec region, one of the most pristine and unique environments on earth. 

It is home to whales, seabirds, dolphins, turtles, and thousands of other species of fish and marine life that aren’t found anywhere else.

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 initiative reinforces New Zealand’s leadership in sustainable management of the marine environment. 

New Zealand has made good progress in protecting its territorial seas. In the last year, 10 new marine reserves have been created in Akaroa, the sub-Antarctics, Kaikōura and off the West Coast, bringing our grand total of marine reserves to 44.

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.

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.