What is the South-East Marine Protection Forum?

The South-East Marine Protection Forum is a non-statutory body established by the Minister of Conservation and the Minister for Primary Industries in July 2014. It has been asked to recommend to the government a network of marine protected areas from Timaru down to Waipapa Point in Southland.

Members of the Forum represent the interests of tangata whenua, commercial fishing, recreational users, conservation groups, tourism, marine science, local government and communities.

Why does the South-East Coast need marine protection?

New Zealand has a number of MPAs including marine reserves. However, the South-East stands out as being the only region in the country without any marine reserves. Marine protection helps to ensure the most iconic and ecologically significant marine habitats are maintained and helps protect the places and things people value most about the South-East coast.

Its spectacular coastline is home to some of our most endangered species such as the yellow-eyed penguin, northern royal albatross and New Zealand sea lion.

It boasts deep water bryozoan thickets, rare in the world, that provide protection from predators for juvenile species and it also features giant kelp forests that provide habitat for many fish species.

New Zealand has made international commitments to protect marine biodiversity. Those commitments include conserving at least 10% of our coastal and marine area by 2020.

What threats is our marine environment facing?

People who have lived by and worked in the sea for decades have told us of the changes they have observed in the health and abundance of marine life and the level of biodiversity in the Forum’s region. The scientific community have been generous with their time to explain to us what they know about what is causing these changes, and threats to the resilience of the ecosystems in the future.

Potential threats to the marine environment include:

  • climate change
  • fishing methods that damage the sea floor
  • bycatch (the unintended capture of fish and other animals in fishing gear)
  • aquaculture
  • extraction of oil and minerals
  • waste and pollution
  • invasive exotic species, and
  • run-off from urban and agricultural land.

How can a network of marine protected areas address those threats?

A well-designed network of marine protected areas can contribute to the long-term survival of habitats and ecosystems in a healthy and functioning state in the face of such pressures. They help habitats and ecosystems to adapt and recover in response to disturbance, both natural (such as storms) and human induced. Any reduction or loss of biodiversity, for example, the extinction of a species, can detrimentally affect other species or even entire ecosystems.

Marine protected areas can provide a foundation for research and education that will provide benefits for our understanding of marine ecology, the impact of pressures on the marine environment, conservation efforts and biodiversity in general.

How does the South-East Marine Protection Forum area fit in with the rest of New Zealand’s MPAs?

The first marine protected areas developed under the MPA Policy was for the West coast, South Island. The South-East Marine Protection Forum area is the second marine protected area process for mainland New Zealand.. The offshore sub-Antarctic islands have also been through an MPA Policy process.

What has the Forum done since it was established?

The Forum initially consulted widely with local communities and interest groups about marine protection, and at the same time considered available scientific information. Then, on the basis of the information gathered, the Forum determined there were 20 possible sites for marine protection on which they wanted to consult and get more information.

In October2016 the Forum released its public consultation document and called for submissions. During the consultation period the Forum held public information sessions throughout the region.

Submissions closed on December 20 2016.

How many submissions were received?

2803. These can be downloaded from Your submissions. A summary of submissions is also available.

 When will the Forum’s recommendations report be delivered to Government?

The Forum’s recommendations report is due to be delivered to Government by 19 January 2018.

Why does the Forum need more time?

The volume of submissions received, 2803, was overwhelming in terms of the time required for the Forum to read them and understand the information and views provided by the submitters. Together, the submissions add up to over 10,000 pages.

The Forum went out to consultation with a commitment to consider all the information that the public presented in their submissions. To honour that commitment, the Forum is ensuring it has enough time to properly familiarise themselves with the range of views presented and processing new information that has been provided.

What other resources does the Forum have to aid its decision- making process?

To support the Forum in their deliberations process, the Department of Conservation commissioned independent analysts to provide summaries of the submissions received. The independent summaries seek to provide an overview of the key points raised in submissions.

A further summary containing commercially sensitive information was produced for the Forum to ensure all submission information was able to be considered in a summarised form. This is not included on this website due to the potential sensitivity of the information.

Where possible, agencies have provided other information and references to aid the Forum in their decision-making process

 Did the Forum consult on a network of MPAs?

The Forum consulted on 20 proposed sites for possible inclusion in a network and asked for comments on the creation of a network. Now the Forum must take into consideration the feedback the public has provided in their submissions and, through a deliberation process, come up with a network design that meets the MPA Policy guidelines.

 How does the deliberation process work?

There are two steps involved in the deliberation process. The first is a site by site analysis and the second is the MPA network design process.

Site by Site Analysis

The Forum work their way through each site that was consulted on using a deliberation record which contains all the existing information the Forum has about the site. New information provided by submissions is added to this record.

This is done in two stages. Stage 1 assesses the site for its habitat types, viability as an MPA, kaitiakitanga currently practiced and available management tools / protection measures. Stage 2 assesses impacts on users – positive and adverse.

Following each of these stages, the site can be

  • confirmed or withdrawn as a recommended site;
  • flagged as a site requiring further discussion / information; and/or
  • subject to changes or negotiation, and / or evaluation of network design matters.
MPA Network Design

During the network design process, the following factors will be considered:

  • extent to which the full range of habitat or ecosystem types is protected in a marine reserve; identify gaps in terms of protection of habitat types, including protection of rare, distinctive or internationally or nationally important habitat types.
  • extent of connectivity between MPAs
  • extent of latitudinal and longitudinal variation (north to south and across the shelf)
  • replication of different habitat types.

 If a choice had to be made between similar sites what deciding factors would be considered?

Where there is a choice between several sites that would add a similar ecosystem or habitat to the network, the site(s) chosen should be those that minimise adverse effects on Treaty Settlement obligations and existing users as per the MPA Policy.

Where there is a choice between minimum impact sites, selection may also be guided by:

  • accessibility for management and enforcement requirements; and
  • benefits such as educational, diving and tourism opportunities.

 What is the difference between a Type 1 and a Type 2 Marine Protected Area (MPA)

A Type 1 MPA is a marine reserve or ‘no take ’area.  A Type 2 MPA has restrictions specific to what is being targeted for protection; ‘a fit-for-purpose’ set of restrictions. Type 2 MPAs still allow some fishing and harvesting, but restrict specific fishing methods and other activities (e.g. mining) in the interests of biodiversity protection, particularly those that cause sea bed disturbance.

 Why do the Forum’s deliberations take place ‘in committee’, thereby excluding them from being a matter of public record?

There are 14 members of the Forum who include iwi plus representatives of various stakeholder groups. For discussions to be frank and robust, they must have confidence that they can express points of view without fear of any public repercussions.

Any major decisions made ‘in committee’, can be agreed by the Forum to be made public if the Forum believes it is in the best interest of the process to make them public.

The Forum also undertake to release a public-record of each meeting which can be found on this website.

 What involvement has government had?

The South-East Marine Protection Forum is independent of government agencies.  The Department of Conservation (DOC) and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) provide support to the Forum, and have supported the drafting of the proposals for consultation and will continue to support the drafting of the recommendations report.  But, the final recommendations report will be the Forum’s report and the Forum will decide which sites to recommend. The Ministers will make the final decision on what sites, if any, to approve.

 How will the Forum’s recommendations fit in with new MPA legislation?

Government agencies have been consulting on proposed reforms of marine protected areas legislation. A new Marine Protected Areas Bill is expected to be introduced to Parliament before the end of 2017, but the actual date is not yet known.

The Forum process will continue under the existing legislation and policy framework, including the Marine Reserve Act 1971, the Fisheries Act 1996 and a variety of other tools that are listed in the MPA Policy.

The Forum considered delaying this MPA process until after the new legislation was enacted, however was advised by its supporting government agencies to continue.

What happens next?

Once the Forum has delivered its recommendations report to Government, any recommendations that the Government accepts will then be required to go through the relevant statutory process before implementation.  This would involve a new round of public consultation.

 How do Ministers make their decision?

A marine reserve is established by Order in Council made by the Governor General. A final decision on whether to recommend an area as a marine reserve is made by the Minister of Conservation, who needs agreement of the Minister of Transport and the Minister for Primary Industries.

The Minister for Primary Industries decides whether to recommend to the Governor-General to make the fishing regulations for Type 2 MPAs. For measures relating to impacts of fishing on the aquatic environment, the Minister for Primary Industries makes the final decision.