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Kermadec compromise will be a hard one to swallow

Article – NZ Energy and Environment Business Week

NZ Firsts floating of a compromise over the Kermadec Marine Sanctuary will not impress the Green Party or many in the environmental movement, but they will have to decide if some form of progress is worth the compromise.NZ First’s floating of a compromise over the Kermadec Marine Sanctuary will not impress the Green Party or many in the environmental movement, but they will have to decide if some form of progress is worth the compromise.

One major problem with the compromise is it could set up a precedent if any moves are made in the future to create new marine sanctuaries in areas.

NZ First Leader Winston Peters has suggested a compromise of allowing some fishing in the sanctuary, which encompasses an existing marine reserve around the islands territorial waters out to the edge of the Exclusive Economic Zone covering 620,000-square-kilometres.

National proposed the sanctuary and a Bill to set it up completed its first reading unopposed. However National had failed to get buy in from iwi and the wider fisheries sector and the Bill was stalled due to legal action and talks which have been going on ever since.

Peters is now proposing a mixed-use reserve allowing for around 95% marine reserve and 5% fishing. How this would work has not been publicly discussed. NZ First and Labour initially shut out the Greens from the Kermadec Sanctuary talks.

The Labour-NZ First agreement says they will work with Maori and other quota holders to resolve outstanding issues. The Labour-Green agreement says they will use best endeavours to establish the sanctuary.

Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage delegations specifically excluded from consideration over the Sanctuary. The official delegations state Sage will be “leading work on marine protection issues, in consultation with other marine Ministers as appropriate, with the exception of matters relating to the proposed Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, and the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012.”

The Kermadec Sanctuary was initially seen as an easy step towards meeting NZ’s international commitments to establishing marine reserves. Fishing quota in the region is largely unused. It is remote and existing quota is not exploited. There is some catch of highly migratory species in the sanctuary area. Between 2010 and 2015 an annual average of 20 tonnes (mainly swordfish) with a value of less than $200,000. This compares to the total NZ fishery of 449,000 tonnes valued at $1.5bn.

For those holding quota though there is an important principle at stake – the extinguishing of a property right without compensation (as was proposed in the Bill before the House). For them there is also removing the future potential of developing the fishery. Though the Government itself owns 85% of the quota in the area.

Those arguing for the sanctuary say the environmental considerations trump quota rights. If the Govt decides to uphold quota rights over its ability to override them and create the sanctuary it will make the creation of other large-scale sanctuaries more expensive and difficult.

Some Maori interest quota holders have suggested they could voluntary shelve their quota for the region if the Government agreed to maintain its fishing rights.

National MP Nick Smith currently has a member’s bill in the ballot that would progress the establishment of the sanctuary. It has yet to be drawn, Labour and NZ First could also appeal to National to support the compromise. However National could equally decide it was not in its political interests to help the Government out of this problem and hope it increases tensions between its opponents.

Article originally published in the NZ Energy and Environment Business Alert on May 16.

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