Kermadec Sanctuary uncertainty

Plans for a Kermadec Sanctuary may be on hold for this term, although uncertainty remains. Tracey Watkins in Below the Beltway:


Green Party co-leader James Shaw – No matter how much Labour and the Greens spin it, NZ First won the arm wrestling over the Kermadecs marine sanctuary. It won’t be happening during this term of Government.

Stuff: Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary put on ice by NZ First, catching Greens unaware

New Zealand’s biggest ocean sanctuary is dead in the water, in a Winston Peters deal that has blindsided the Greens.

NZ First, whose senior MPs are close to the fishing industry and whose campaign was partly bankrolled by players in the fishing industry, demanded Labour stop the sanctuary.

And it is understood Jacinda Ardern agreed a Labour-NZ First government would not progress legislation to establish the sanctuary in this three-year Parliamentary term. That will disappoint some of her MPs and supporters, but will win favour among her Maori MPs who argued it undermined iwi commercial fishing rights.

But Kermadec Sanctuary still on table, but iwi consultation key – Labour

A deep-water marine sanctuary off the Kermadec Islands could still go ahead, with Labour confirming it would work to establish the world’s largest marine reserve in a way that would satisfy both of its governing partners.

It appears an agreement has been reached between Labour, NZ First and the Greens individually that satisfies Green support for the protection of the Kermadec’s pristine waters, while assuring NZ First that iwi and commercial fishing rights will be taken into account.

Incoming prime minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed the sanctuary played a role in coalition talks, but said, it was not dead in the water.

“Our intention is to work alongside Māori and use our best endeavours to achieve the Kermadec Sanctuary. We will be seeking consensus and agreement with our support parties to find a resolution,” she said.

That could be a difficult ask to achieve in a first term, with views on the sanctuary in stark opposition. The consultation process is likely to be careful and protracted, and legislation for the reserve’s creation could be some time away.

Greens co-leader James Shaw said he was happy with the plan for progression and held “high hopes” it would be before Parliament in the next three years.

“I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, right, because there are a lot of complicated issues to work through. But we’re committed to working through those,” Shaw said.

“High hopes” sounds far from certain.

From the Labour-Green Confidence & Supply Agreement:

Safeguard the healthy functioning of marine ecosystems and promote abundant fisheries. Use best endeavours and work alongside Māori to establish the Kermadec/ Rangitāhua Ocean Sanctuary and look to establish a Taranaki blue whale sanctuary.

“Use best endeavours” sounds vague, especially alongside “look to establish”. These could mean nothing more than ‘we talked about it’.

From the Labour-NZ First Coalition Agreement:

Work with Māori and other quota holders to resolve outstanding issues in the KermadecOcean Sanctuary Bill in a way that is satisfactory to both Labour and New Zealand First.

A press release from Trans Tasman: Kermadecs: Where Politics, Policies 
And Principles Collide

Environmentalists will be shaking their heads at how the political process has managed to derail the proposed Kermadec Marine Sanctuary.

As reported in Trans-Tasman’s sister publication, the NZ Energy & Environment Business Alert, the sanctuary was to be a major contributor to NZ’s international commitments to protect the marine environment. However, it is now hard to see how those commitments can be reached in the foreseeable future.

…the issue now highlights the sometimes conflicting policy and political priorities of the three different parties forming the new Govt. The Greens did believe the environmental positives of the sanctuary trumped the property rights of quota owners, while NZ First supports the fisheries sector. Labour supports the sanctuary in principle, but its large Maori caucus is mindful of the Treaty issues raised.

The body language of the players now involved is revealing, with Green co-leader James Shaw describing the issue as “complex.”

NZ First’s agreement says the two parties will “work with Maori and other quota holders to resolve outstanding issues in the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill in a way that is satisfactory to both Labour and NZ First.” Neither exude confidence the sanctuary will be created in this Parliament.

In many ways the Kermadec Sanctuary should be easy runs on the board towards NZ’s commitments to marine protection. If it can’t be sorted out, it does not bode well for more sanctuaries in areas with some economic exploitation, such as the subantarctic islands, let alone more heavily fished ocean.

The latest comment from Greens is this from Julie Anne Genter on Thursday: Kermadec Sanctuary likely to go ahead

Green MP Julie Anne Genter expects the Kermadec sanctuary to go ahead under the incoming Government.

Ms Genter said more consultation is key to getting a good deal for everyone.

“You don’t just go out there and bowl people over and put stuff up. That’s not a good way to run a country, you can get good environmental outcomes and make sure everyone is on board.”

That doesn’t sound like it will be a priority. Consultation takes time, even if all the parties are intent on making progress. It doubt that the sanctuary will be a priority.

Leave a comment


  1. Conspiratoor

     /  28th October 2017

    Right sentiment, wrong reality. Just another nursery for the chinese tuna fleet..

    “Today the international fleet, predominantly Chinese and much bigger in number than the multinational but toothless Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission actually permits, hovers on the borders of the New Zealand EEZ and fishes the tuna stocks hard”

  2. Gerrit

     /  28th October 2017

    Biggest problem is as Conspiratoor has outlined. You can create and label and designate any piece of water as a marine reserve. But unless you can patrol and protect the reserve, it is nothing more than a piece of well meaning but useless bit of paper. You will never stop poaching unless you have “feet on the ground” or in this case in the air and in the water.

    Once Maori receive a cash settlement for loss of fishing rights, the real problem will need to be faced in how to protect the reserve.

    Will the Greens enable strengthening of the Navy with more blue water vessels? Will they allow sinking of poaching fishing boats? Will they buy the upgraded reconnaissance aircraft like the Kawasak P1 and equip it with proper teeth like harpoon missiles?

    Getting cross party agreement is political jousting. the real action will be out there at the Kermadecs.

    This activity requires wider cooperation with Australian and Pacific neighbours so it will be interesting to see how Shane Jones (having been in that capacity under National) sees the upcoming conflict over oceanic resources.

    It requires positive action as in shown here, protecting the Patagonian Toothfish stock.

    Will the Labour/Greens/Nz First government have the will power to act?

    • Gezza

       /  28th October 2017

      More likely they will attempt to reason with poachers by sticking their heads in the sand & mumbling, & then whinge to some toothless international body or other who talks it up big but is fkn useless when it comes doing anything about stopping it.

      I guess we could maybe ask the ozzers for help. They’ve actually got a navy. But they might just tell us to “fk off, dwarf” like they do a lot these days.

  3. Blazer

     /  28th October 2017

    How did the National Party plan to..’ patrol and protect the reserve,’?Not forgetting the way they announced the proposal.


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