Coast marine reserves opened

Laura Mills

Five new West Coast marine reserves were officially opened yesterday at Punakaiki by Conservation Minister Nick Smith.
The minister then flew to Auckland to announce changes to the act under which the reserves were created, and make it less cumbersome. The West Coast reserves are the last to be set up under the old act.
“These five new marine reserves on the West Coast effective from today are part of the Government’s plan to improve New Zealand’s marine conservation. We are a nation with some of the most spectacular and unique coastlines in the world and we need to recognise the importance and value of these marine habitats,” Dr Smith said.
The five reserves — Kahurangi, Punakaiki, Waiau-Glacier Coast, Tauparikaka and Hautai — are the first such reserves for the West Coast beyond Fiordland, and adjoin
three national parks and the
Te Wahipounamu South-West
New Zealand world heritage area.
The reserves will protect the shore and seabed habitats of marine life such as Hector’s dolphins and blue penguins (korora), as well as a wide range of fish species and other marine life.
The reserve sites were carefully chosen to protect a representative range of habitats and special examples of the West Coast’s marine areas while minimising impacts on existing users. Popular fishing locations and mataitai reserves for customary and recreational fishing still remain available to be utilised by fishers.
Some low-impact activities are still allowed within the reserves’ boundaries including collecting stones and firewood.
“The marine environment is the new frontier for conservation. Seventy percent of New Zealand’s endemic species are in the ocean yet the bulk of our historic protective effort has been on land,” Dr Smith said.
Department of Conservation marine expert Don Neale, who made the often photographed ‘Hokitika’ driftwood sign, made a special ‘Punakaiki’ one for the occasion.
Representatives of both West Coast iwi — Ngati Mahaki ki Makaawhio and Ngati Waewae attended — as did DOC staff, Ministry of Primary Industries representatives, several members of the marine forum, and Runanga School children.