2 Nov 2013

Sanctuary bid not wasted - McCully

2:37 pm on 2 November 2013

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says it is disappointing that a plan to create an ocean sanctuary in Antarctica has failed for a third time, but the meeting was still constructive.

A proposal from New Zealand and the United States for a 1.3 million square kilometre marine reserve has been blocked for a third time.

Victoria Valley, Ross Sea Dependency.

Victoria Valley, Ross Sea Dependency. Photo: PHOTO NZ

It was thwarted by Russia, with support from Ukraine, at a meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources in Hobart, Tasmania.

Mr McCully says, despite the rejection, there is growing momentum for the proposal, with many more countries now actively supporting it than when it was first presented a year ago.

He says that gives reason to hope Russia and Ukraine will eventually offer their support and New Zealand will push for the sanctuary again at next year's meeting.

However, environmentalists say Russia has put a wrecking ball through the Hobart talks.

Antarctic Ocean Alliance New Zealand co-ordinator Geoff Keey doubts watering down the plans further will secure the support needed.

He says there was no reason for the plan not to succeed and he does not think further concessions will work.

Mr Keey says instead, work needs to be done with dissenting countries to bring them on board around the principle of creating a reserve.

He says progress must be made towards the sanctuary, and hard thought will have to be put into what happens next.

If the plan had been approved, the Ross Sea would have become the world's largest marine protected area.