Stu­dents make push for greater ma­rine pro­tec­tion

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

A group of young peo­ple con­cerned New Zealand’s waters are be­ing de­stroyed by over-fish­ing wants the Gov­ern­ment to cut the red tape and make it eas­ier for com­mu­ni­ties to set up ma­rine re­serves.

Stu­dents at Marl­bor­ough Girls’ Col­lege are fed up that a pro­posed up­date to ma­rine pro­tec­tion hasn’t gone ahead, al­most two-and-a-half years after it was an­nounced, and have writ­ten to Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ar­den in the hope of kick­start­ing the stalled pro­posal.

The year 12 and 13 stu­dents have spent the past two terms in­ves­ti­gat­ing the al­most 50-yearold Ma­rine Re­serves Act and its pos­si­ble suc­ces­sor.

In Jan­uary 2016, the pre­vi­ous Na­tional gov­ern­ment put to­gether a Ma­rine Pro­tected Ar­eas Act with the in­ten­tion that it would be up and run­ning later that year. That pro­posal in­cluded turn­ing the Marl­bor­ough Sounds into a recre­ational fish­ing park.

In Oc­to­ber last year, the new Labour-led coali­tion gov­ern­ment came into power and, on Tues­day, the Min­istry for the En­vi­ron­ment con­firmed the pol­icy re­form in ma­rine pro­tec­tion was ‘‘cur­rently on hold’’.

A spokesper­son for the prime min­is­ter said the let­ter had been re­ceived and read.

‘‘The prime min­is­ter re­ceives hun­dreds of let­ters each week and it can take a bit of time to re­spond. How­ever, the stu­dents will be hear­ing back from us soon,’’ the spokesper­son said.

In their let­ter to the prime min­is­ter, the eight teenagers made a pas­sion­ate plea out­lin­ing their per­sonal con­nec­tions with the Marl­bor­ough Sounds and first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence of see­ing fish num­bers de­cline.

‘‘We have writ­ten to find out if this [the pro­posed Ma­rine Pro­tected Ar­eas Act] is still a pri­or­ity since the elec­tion,’’ they said.

‘‘If it is not a pri­or­ity we strongly be­lieve that it needs to be. Oth­er­wise our ma­rine life is in grave dan­ger of di­min­ish­ing sooner than we think.’’

The De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion said in its New Zealand Bio­di­ver­sity Ac­tion Plan 2016-2020 that it ex­pected new ma­rine pro­tec­tion leg­is­la­tion to be es­tab­lished by 2018.

‘‘It is now 2018 and we have not seen this yet,’’ the stu­dents said.

In May, the stu­dents took to the streets of Blen­heim and sur­veyed 100 lo­cals on their knowl­edge of ma­rine re­serves.

They found 94 per cent of peo­ple knew what a ma­rine re­serve was but 55 per cent didn’t know that Marl­bor­ough had only one ma­rine pro­tected area, Long Is­land Re­serve.

Eighty-two per cent were shocked that Marl­bor­ough had only one re­serve and said they wanted more.

The class started the year by vis­it­ing Long Is­land Re­serve and were in­spired by the rich bio­di­ver­sity of the area.

‘‘We thought, let’s put an­other one in place. That was our ini­tial plan, to cre­ate an­other ma­rine re­serve in the Marl­bor­ough Sounds,’’ Demi Fearn said.

‘‘But we found the cur­rent act

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