12 Aug 2013

New push for Otago marine park

6:08 am on 12 August 2013

Conservation Minister Nick Smith is renewing a push for a marine park in Otago.

A diver in the ocean.


Previous attempts by the Department of Conservation to create a coastal reserve at Nugget Point in the Catlins had to be dumped because of opposition from recreational fishers.

After years of work Dr Smith is about to make nine new marine reserves law at Akaroa, on the West Coast and around the sub-Antarctic Islands.

He says that leaves Otago standing out as the only major coast without a reserve, and that seems contrary to the region's pride in its albatross colony, yellow-eyed penguin and fishing base. Dr Smith says he is having DoC launch a collaborative process to create at least one reserve.

The head of Otago University's Marine Science department, Abby Smith, says scientists have been pushing the idea for a decade and will be delighted. She says it need not be one big reserve, but could be a series of smaller ones.

However retired Nugget Point fisherman Nelson Cross says if the Government aims for his area the people are ready to fight back.

The paua industry is already fighting on one front to get more access to commercial grounds on the Otago coast, and it is not likely to welcome having another part turned into a no-take zone.

But the Otago Rock Lobster Industry Association says its 25 members have been talking about it and decided they could live with a marine reserve in the right place.