Government road-blocks better regional ocean protection

Forest & Bird says the Government is road-blocking regional councils from taking action to protect New Zealand’s marine environment.

Yesterday, the Government announced it will appeal an Environment Court ruling which confirmed regional councils can use the RMA to protect native species by controlling fishing-related activities.

Forest & Bird spokesperson Geoff Keey says "To date, this Government has failed to reign in the plunder of New Zealand’s marine environment.

"From illegal fishing practices and out of control by-catch issues, to oil exploration and seismic testing, this Government has failed in nearly every aspect of marine protection - as a result we have collapsing ecosystems all around New Zealand’s coast."

The original 2016 Environment Court case was prompted by the Minister of Primary Industries' lack of action on an application to him to protect the Astrolabe Reef through a temporary ban on fishing within three nautical miles of it.

"The Environment Court offered our oceans some hope last year, by confirming that regional councils can regulate fishing and marine activity to protect New Zealand’s underwater ecosystems. Finally someone could do the crucial job that central government has been ineffective in doing themselves," says Mr Keey.

"Given that the Government is frequently seen to promote fishing and mineral interests at the expense of our oceans, it is perhaps not surprising they are opposed to this court ruling," says Mr Keey.

"Forest & Bird would like to see our ministers putting the same effort into acting to protect our marine space as they do in expensive and lengthy court cases that erode New Zealand’s environmental protection laws.

"Their decision to appeal will be disappointing to anyone who values a healthy ocean, and to many regional councils who could have used the decision to balance commercial and environmental interests on the sea, as they do on land.

"Forest and Bird was a party to the original application by the Motiti Rohe Moana Trust, and we are considering our legal options in relation to this appeal."