Marine Protected Areas – Protecting our Rich and Complex Seascape
In 2006 the government agreed to set up a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to protect examples of our different marine habitats and ecosystems, as well as those that are outstanding or rare. This will help to ensure that some of our biological wealth in the seas is ‘banked’ as an investment for future generations.
The Ministry of Fisheries and DOC developed a Marine Protected Areas Policy (2006) to create this network of MPAs. Building on the Biodiversity Strategy of 2000, the objective of the MPA Policy is to protect marine biodiversity through establishing a network of MPAs that is comprehensive and representative of New Zealand’s marine habitats and ecosystems.
This year the government agreed to a classification approach to marine protection, and on the level of protection required in each bio-geographic region. Fourteen biogeographic regions have been identified around the country within the classification. The MPA Policy specifies separate processes for the coastal environment and one for the deepwater environment.
Planning for the coastal marine environment will be implemented independently in 14 biogeographic regions by community-based Marine Protection Planning Forums (MPPFs).
Planning for protected areas in the deepwater environment will commence in 2013 and will be implemented at a national level by an expert offshore panel. This group will have specific expertise and representation of offshore interests.
MFish and DOC officials will service both the MPPFs and the offshore panel with information, advice, facilitation and guidance. This will include provision of ecosystem and habitat maps, and information derived using the marine and coastal classification approaches.
Working with communities – Marine Protection Planning Forums
The MPA Policy takes a regional approach to planning. MFish and DOC are working with communities and stakeholders to plan for areas of protection and to determine what marine protection tools would be most suitable for those areas.
This new approach is intended to be inclusive and transparent. It is designed so that regional councils, marine users, tangata whenua and those with an interest in marine biodiversity can all be involved. Implementation of the network is intended to be based on best available information and a commitment to minimise effects of new protected areas on existing users.
MPA forums have been established on the west coast of the South Island and for the Sub-Antarctic Islands.