National MP Nick Smith has lodged a Member’s Bill to establish the 620,000km2 ocean sanctuary around the Kermadec Islands in New Zealand’s most northern islands.

This is the third Bill attempting to create the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary. It follows a Bill from Green MP Gareth Hughes and builds on the work put into Dr Smith’s previous Government Bill. It was approved for introduction by the National Caucus on 7 November.

Dr Smith says the proposed Kermadec Sanctuary will protect one of the most pristine and diverse areas of ocean anywhere in the world. It contains the world’s largest chain of underwater volcanoes and the second deepest ocean trench.

“The Sanctuary would be home to six million sea birds, 35 species of fish and three of the world’s seven species of sea turtle. The protection of this area is a unique opportunity for New Zealand to make a global contribution towards better conservation of the world’s oceans.

“I am confident we will be successful in establishing the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary. With National’s 56 votes and the Green’s 8 votes, there is a clear Parliamentary majority.

“The Sanctuary has strong public support with independent opinion polls showing 93 per cent of New Zealanders - including 82 per cent of Māori - indicating support for it.

“All of the 17 marine protected areas I have been involved in creating have had some controversy and setbacks, but perseverance and advocacy have seen them achieved in time.  At twice the size of New Zealand’s land area, the scale of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary was always going to make it a hotly debated initiative.

“New Zealand this weekend is rightly celebrating the establishment of the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area in the international waters surrounding Antarctica - a joint initiative we took with the United States. It took eight years to secure the agreement of 25 member countries of the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. The Kermadecs in the sub-tropics is the next logical step in establishing a network of protected areas.

“I will continue to work to build support for this Sanctuary amongst Māori and acknowledge the consistent and strong support by tangata whenua, Ngāti Kuri. There has been no commercial fishing by Māori in these waters, and the right to establish Marine Protected Areas through the setup of the Quota Management system – as well as the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries settlement - has always been retained,” he says.

Dr Smith says his Bill is about New Zealand making a global contribution to the challenge of ocean conservation.

“New Zealand is an international leader in terrestrial conservation with 30 per cent of our land area conserved, but we lag on marine conservation with less than one per cent of our waters protected. This new Sanctuary would fully protect 15 per cent of our ocean area.”

Dr Smith’s Member’s Bill will be in the first ballot for the new Parliament. If it is successfully introduced it will be referred to the Environment Select Committee providing for a further opportunity for public submissions and input.

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