The waters around the Kermadec Islands to the north of New Zealand will become one of the largest ocean sanctuaries in the world, Prime Minister John Key announced at the United Nations early today.

The decision will be celebrated by organisations and individuals who have campaigned for years for such a sanctuary.

The Kermadec Islands have had a marine reserve around them since 1990 but this decision will extend it from 12 nautical miles to the 200 nautical miles of New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Mr Key said the sanctuary would protect the habitats of seabirds, whales and dolphins, turtles, fish and other marine life.

It would mean no fishing, commercial or recreational, and no prospecting or mining in the area.