Thursday, July 18, 2024

Environment Minister disappointed by iwi opposition to sanctuary

Environment Minister, David Parker says today’s decision by iwi organisations to oppose the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary proposal was “very disappointing”.

Minister Parker said that since 2017, the Government had worked closely and carefully with the iwi fisheries organisation, Te Ohu Kai Moana, and northern iwi representatives to get this sanctuary established.

“By contrast, the previous National Government failed to engage properly with Māori interests before it introduced the Kermadec sanctuary bill in 2016. This Government tried hard, and in good faith, to rectify that initial mistake and seek agreement with the interested parties,” the Minister said.

He said the Government had been clear that it was prepared to consider compensation for fishing rights that would have been suspended by the sanctuary.

“The cost of that would have been relatively modest, given that little commercial fishing takes place in the sanctuary area.”

Iwi interests indicated they did not want such compensation, but the draft Supplementary Order Paper for the Bill would have nonetheless reversed National’s earlier decision to stop iwi seeking compensation through the courts, said the Minister.

“The proposed sanctuary around the Kermadec Islands region covers about 620,000 sq km, or 15 percent of New Zealand’s total Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). It would represent a significant portion of the 30 percent global target for marine protection under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.”

“New Zealand’s fishing rights in the EEZ arise from the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which also includes preservation obligations in the EEZ.

“An updated summary of the sanctuary policy proposal was provided to Te Ohu recently. It included re-naming the sanctuary to recognise the area’s significance to Māori, and Crown funding for a new 20-year scientific research plan to inform decisions about the future management of the sanctuary. This would have been overseen by Te Kahui, the body that would have managed the sanctuary.

“Only recently, it had been indicated to us that the parties were close to agreement on the sanctuary. Today’s decision – reportedly by a large majority – is a big setback for marine protection in New Zealand,” Mr Parker says.

“The Government will seek to understand more about why this unexpected decision has been made before deciding on next steps,” he said.

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