The Government has approved five new marine reserves on the South Island's West Coast.
Until now there have been no marine reserves along the West Coast north of Fiordland.
The five new reserves will cover 17,500 hectares and include three of the four largest marine reserves adjoining the mainland New Zealand coast.
They bring the total number of reserves for mainland New Zealand to 35 and increase the protected areas by 50% to 51,102 hectares.
The Department of Conservation received 159 submissions on the reserves, 155 of which were in favour and four against.
The West Coast Marine Forum, which comprises Ngai Tahu and commercial and recreational fishers, supported creating the reserves.
Conservation Minister Nick Smith says it is remarkable there has been such broad support for the reserves from the West Coast, given conservation has caused conflict there in the past.
But Dr Smith says protection of sea life is still a long way behind land conservation, even with the five new marine reserves.
The Government wants to have 10% of coastal and marine areas protected by 2020, up from 6.9% at present.
The reserves are expected to be gazetted later this year.
The proposed reserves are:
- Kahurangi Marine Reserve (8466 hectares)
- Punakaiki Marine Reserve (3558 hectares)
- Waiau Glacier Coast Marine Reserve (4641 hectares)
- Hautai Marine Reserve (847 hectares)
- Tauparikaka Marine Reserve (approx 16 hectares)