22 Oct 2017

Kermadec sanctuary plans still afloat

10:30 am on 22 October 2017

The Labour and Green parties have rejected reports that the proposed Kermadec Ocean marine sanctuary is dead in the water.

Humpback whale - mother and calf

Kermadec waters are an important stopover for humpback whales on their way to dummer feeding ground near Antarctica Photo: Malcolm Francis/ NIWA

A ban on fishing and mining around the Kermadecs was announced by former Prime Minister John Key and legislation to create the 620,000 sqkm sanctuary is part-way through Parliament.

It was criticised by Māori fishing interests as breaching Treaty rights, and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said last year his party would not back it on that basis.

The Sunday Star-Times reported today that the scheme had now fallen victim to Labour's coalition agreement with New Zealand First.

But in a written statement, incoming Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said reports the sanctuary had been killed off were not true.

"Our intention is to work alongside Māori and use our best endeavours to achieve the Kermadec Sanctuary," Ms Ardern said.

"We will be seeking consensus and agreement with our support parties to find a resolution."

Green Party leader James Shaw told TVNZ's Q +A this morning the scheme was still on the table.

"Obviously there are still a lot of issues to work through, it is a complicated issue, but we are still doing our best efforts to make sure it happens," he said.

"We absolutely need to work alongside Māori to make sure it happens but I think we are all committed to make sure that it does."

The proposed Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary would be about 1000km northeast of New Zealand.

It would be one of the world's largest fully protected areas, 35 times larger than the combined area of New Zealand's existing 44 marine reserves, and would mean 15 percent of New Zealand's ocean environment would be fully protected.

The sanctuary would cover the ocean around the five main Kermadec Islands: Raoul, Macauley, Cheeseman, Curtis and L'Esperance.

They lie about half-way between New Zealand and Tonga.

There is a much smaller existing reserve there, of about 7500 square kilometres.

Last year, Māori fisheries organisation Te Ohu Kaimoana said the proposal breached previous agreements.

"We have rights in that area which are guaranteed by the Treaty of Waitangi and the 1992 [Sealord] Treaty settlement," Te Ohu Kaimoana chairman Jamie Tuuta said.

"The Crown has never asked Māori whether we consent to these rights being extinguished and we object to being treated so disrespectfully."

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