Agreeing with Gareth Hughes

June 18th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

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Today over in the US, John Key is drumming up support for a UN Security Council seat and Murray McCully is attending John Kerry’s Oceans conference but it seems no one in National has thought of joining the two issues up. I would love to see New Zealand sitting at the United Nations top table and I support our bid to be represented on the UN Security Council. I think the world needs our voice for peace and environmental protection around that table as it debates thorny issues like Syria, Ukraine and climate change. Facing intense competition from Turkey and Spain for the Council seat we need to put our best foot forward. The world knows us as a proud independent country at the bottom of the world that defied the odds and went nuclear free. The world knows us as stunning Middle Earth. This environmental image is our strategic advantage and building on it by creating the Sanctuary, the world’s largest marine reserve, strengthens our point of difference in the Security Council bid.

Marine conservation is heating up as a significant global issue and enhancing our credentials would be perfect as part of the UN campaign. We are known for our small size and tiny population but when it comes to our oceans we are a marine superpower. We have the fifth largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the world, at twenty times the size of our landmass. We have been leaders on stopping destructive driftnets, opposing whaling and protecting the waters around Antarctica. At a time when the world’s scientists are saying the oceans are in crisis with overfishing, acidification and pollution marine conservation could be an area where New Zealand can do more and lead.

Just imagine: if this week, New Zealand declares the worlds’ largest marine reserve around the Kermadecs. It would be met positively by the international media and would be a massive public relations victory. It would send the world the message we care about the challenges facing our oceans and are prepared to act to protect them. It could be what gets us over the line as various countries vote for UN Security Council seats. It would also be the right thing to do to protect this special part of New Zealand.

I agree the Kermadecs should be turned into one large marine reserve. There are a number of smaller there, but we could make the entire area a unique marine reserve. There would be little economic loss in doing so (unlike in other areas), and considerable environmental gain.

The Kermadecs lie North East of New Zealand, halfway to Tonga, ‘in the midst of a prodigious ocean.’ The waters around the Kermadec Islands contain incredible natural diversity and include whales, fish, turtles, and seabirds. Beneath the surface is a series of undersea volcanoes and the world’s second deepest marine trench. National Geographic calls it “one of the last pristine sites in our oceans”. Our largest current marine reserve extends out to twelve nautical miles around the Kermadec islands but successive government’s lethargy in modernising our 1971 Marine Reserves Act to allow for reserves in the EEZ means it is stuck at its current size. I have a Private Members’ Bill in the ballot to extend the Kermadecs Reserve out to 200 nautical miles making it, at 620,000 square kilometres, the largest marine reserve in the world and New Zealand’s only reserve that protects an entire ecosystem.

I have applauded the Government’s recent creation of the Subantarctic Islands marine reserves but it is not enough to prove we’re a serious global champion of the oceans. While 4,300 square kilometres will be protected around the Bounty, Antipodes and Campbell Islands it only increases the percentage of our waters protected in marine reserves from 0.31 to 0.41%. Less than half of 1% protected looks laughable compared to the third of our land protected in National Parks. The creation of the expanded Kermadecs reserve would immediately take this to 15%.

There is incredible diversity there, and it is pristine.

Despite the enormous area that would become protected, only a minimal amount of fishing activity would be displaced. Between the 2007 & 2010 fishing years, an average of only $109,000 a year of fishing activity occurred. 

It’s really a no brainer. we should do it.

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12 Responses to “Agreeing with Gareth Hughes”

  1. RF (1,404 comments) says:

    Well hush ma mouth. Gareth makes good sense. I agree with him 100%. Thats a first for me.

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  2. contheneo (27 comments) says:

    I suspect doing that would result in more than $109,000 more in economic activity related to diving and research? So why the heck not?

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  3. Harriet (4,975 comments) says:

    “……I think the world needs our voice for peace and environmental protection…”

    Why is Barry not saying enough?

    But yeah – if you reckon Muslims will listen to someone from NZ……. :cool:

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  4. CJPhoto (222 comments) says:

    Two questions:

    – One for National/Key: Why not. Just do it.
    – One for Greens/Hughs: Why bother. It appears to have geographical protection, which is probably more than enough.

    I would love to see a more detailed independent pro’s and con’s on this but in the end, why not – it goes great with our ‘Green 100% pure image’

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  5. Nigel Kearney (1,019 comments) says:

    If there is very little fishing in the area, then there is very little to gain from banning it other than the sense of moral superiority that certain types of people get when they prevent others engaging in commerce. And you add enforcement costs.

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  6. OneTrack (3,114 comments) says:

    Nigel – ” ….then there is very little to gain from banning it other than the sense of moral superiority that certain types of people get when they prevent others engaging in commerce…”

    Ahh, you mean it’s just another Green policy then.

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  7. Ross12 (1,432 comments) says:

    Agree with Nk. but on the other hand it could be argued that putting a reserve there is not going to affect anyone either.
    Also setting up a marine reserve is not going to make any difference to the UN Security Council vote — diplomatic naivety by Hughes.

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  8. unaha-closp (1,165 comments) says:

    If we make a wilderness area a National Park it becomes a tourist venue. We can trade of $109,000 in fishing for $millions in cruise ships.

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  9. Brin (7 comments) says:

    The point Gareth is glossing over is that we don’t actually know what resources might or might not be in the region. There could be a large natural gas field there, oil, or valuable minerals – or nothing of any value. Gareth is essentially arguing that we should lock a large area of our territorial waters/seabed up and prevent development there, before we know how valuable it might be.

    I’d be all for turning it into a reserve if we knew in doing so we weren’t passing up a multi-billion dollar opportunity. What he should be arguing is that we should survey the area, find out what is there, and then make an informed decision on whether to establish a reserve.

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  10. Ed Snack (1,883 comments) says:

    I doubt that there is (at least not in the medium term) any significant tourist revenue to be had. The Kermadecs are relatively remote so it can’t be a casual visit, and even then the waters are just not that spectacular. No fancy coral reefs, fish, but only so many. You could land on the main island (Raoul), but there’s not a hell of a lot there. What there is is not that modified (it did used to be farmed but that stopped in 1937. The Maori knew of the Kermadecs and apparently used it as a way station on the way to and probably from NZ to the islands; it was a convenient water and rest/repairs stop.

    That reported $100K of fishing is bugger all, by the sound of it the area is hardly worth fishing in or more would be done. I doubt that anyone much would bother if we announced it as a sanctuary, but how could we realistically defend/enforce the conditions ?

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  11. hj (7,033 comments) says:

    The world knows us as a proud independent country at the bottom of the world that defied the odds and went nuclear free. The world knows us as stunning Middle Earth. This environmental image is our strategic advantage and building on it by creating the Kermadecs Sanctuary, the world’s largest marine reserve, strengthens our point of difference in the Security Council bid.
    ………………………………….
    Not threatened by anyone.
    I don’t recall multicultural policies in the shire? No One suggested the Shire was booring/monocultural.

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  12. BlairM (2,341 comments) says:

    There is something so dreadfully puritannical about all this. The Kermadecs are our only tropical territory under the direct control of the NZ government. If I were John Key, I would build an airport there, lease land to developers, and make it a “party island” like Ibiza. At the moment it is just sitting there not making money. What is the point?

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