7 Jun 2017

Cooks Marae Moana bill to parliament next week

7:11 pm on 7 June 2017

Legislation for the Cook Islands marine sanctuary, Te Marae Moana, is to go before parliament next week.

This was revealed at the United Nations Oceans Conference in New York where the Cook Islands hosted an event called, "Going to Scale in the Ocean: from large scale Marine Protected Areas to whole domain management: ridge to reef to ocean".

The event heard how the Cooks, Kiribati, New Caledonia and Palau, have worked to establish large scale marine protected areas.

Aitutaki, Cook Islands.

Aitutaki, Cook Islands. Photo: Ewan Smith

The Cooks government said the legislation for Te Marae Moana, which covers just under two million square kilometres, was drawn up after nation-wide consultations consisting of five workshops and over 30 meetings.

The Cook Islands prime minister Henry Puna said Te Marae Moana is the largest commitment any country has undertaken to integrate ocean conservation and management from ridge to reef and from reef to ocean.

The Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, Henry Puna (left), and the New Zealand minister for Pacific People's, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga announce the Cook Islands candidacy for UNESCO in Wellington.

The Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, Henry Puna (left), and the New Zealand minister for Pacific People's, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga announce the Cook Islands candidacy for UNESCO in Wellington. Photo: RNZ/Daniela Maoate-Cox

Kiribati's environment minister, Alexander Teabo, spoke of the ten years invested in developing the Phoenix Islands Protected Area - the first large protected area in the Pacific.

He said Kiribati is proud to be making a global contribution.

Mr Teabo said "Our Ocean defines who we are and is part of our DNA."

The Kiribati capital and most populated area, South Tarawa, consists of several islets, connected by a series of causeways.

The Kiribati capital and most populated area, South Tarawa, consists of several islets, connected by a series of causeways. Photo: Supplied

Anne-Claire Goarant spoke of New Caledonian Coral Sea marine protected area, which encompasses an area more than twice the size of France.

She said the evolution of the governance of the area has been a great journey.

Looking out to the South Pacific Ocean from Noumea, New Caledonia.

Looking out to the South Pacific Ocean from Noumea, New Caledonia. Photo: Copyright: lisastrachan / 123RF Stock Photo

Palau spoke of its experiences in establishing the Palau National Marine Sanctuary which came from a history of conservation actions, starting with the traditional method known as 'bul'.

In 1994 Palau passed the Marine Protection Act which identified and protected marine species such as the hawksbill turtle, in 2001 the harvesting of dugong was prohibited, then in 2002 the Protected Area Network was created.

Baby hawksbill sea turtle swimming away after hatching in the Arnavon Islands.

Baby hawksbill sea turtle swimming away after hatching in the Arnavon Islands. Photo: Supplied/Tim Calver