Prospect of new marine reserve welcomed, but overall protection still amounts to little

Independent conservation organisation Forest & Bird is welcoming the news that the government is acting to speed up the implementation of a package of marine protection measures for the coast off Kaikoura - but is warning that the government's efforts to entice the deep sea oil industry to New Zealand diminishes the value of any work to protect marine habitats.

The "Te Korowai" announcement, as the package is known, was made by Prime Minister John Key today in Kaikoura.

"Te Korowai project has involved nine years of very hard work by the Kaikoura community, including our local branch of Forest & Bird," Karen Baird says.

"Naturally we see this announcement as a positive step.

"But it is highly contradictory that the government is positioning itself in this election year as the saviour of our marine environment, when it is effectively subsidising the dangerous, climate-changing deep sea oil drilling industry to the tune of tens of millions of dollars a year.

"The reporting of Anadarko's imminent departure shows the government has been backing the wrong horse. Given the known and potential environmental costs of fossil fuel extraction, New Zealand is far better to be capitalising on our well-established clean green potential, and fostering the development of this country's clean energy sector instead," Forest & Bird Conservation Advocate Karen Baird says.

"The government's enthusiastic backing of deep sea oil, gas and minerals extraction is doubly inappropriate when so little of New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone is protected by marine reserves. Drilling rights to 12 per cent of the EEZ have been or are about to be sold off to the oil and gas industry. But less than one per cent of New Zealand's total EEZ is fully protected by marine reserves.

"All the current marine reserves are inside the 12 nautical mile territorial limit. This leaves none of our deep water and open ocean ecosystems protected in any way. They are no less important to our natural heritage," Karen Baird says.

Open ocean animals include tuna, seabirds and whales.

"New Zealand needs a marine reserves network that protects a representative range of all the species and habitats found in and on our waters. The government says it wants New Zealand to be a leader in ocean management, but this pitiful level of protection will just not cut it," Karen Baird says.

Contact: Forest & Bird Conservation Advocate Karen Baird 021 911 068021 911 068

Forest & Bird is New Zealand's largest independent conservation organisation, with 50 branches nationwide. It protects our native plants, animals and wild places, on land and in our oceans.