Kiwis to create whale-sized marine sanctuary

New Zealand has announced plans to turn a vast area of the South Pacific, about 600 miles northeast of New Zealand’s North Island, into a marine sanctuary.

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Labour warns legal challenges could be on the horizon over a lack of consultation on the new Kermadec ocean sanctuary, but the Environment Minister says stakeholders backed the project.

The Kermadec area is home to thousands of important species, including whales.

“New Zealanders value our coasts and oceans, which are an important part of our culture, economy and environment and we are committed to managing them sustainably”, he said in a statement.

The marine life will be insulated from oil, gas, and mineral prospecting, all of which will be banned when the country’s government passes the protectionist legislation next year, Key said.

The world’s longest chain of underwater volcanoes and one of the deepest ocean trenches are both lying on the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary that makes it geologically significant.

The plan was announced at the United Nations General Assembly in New York by Prime Minister John Key, who clarified there will not be compensation for the commercial fishing companies for lost catch in the proposed sanctuary, in what the government sees as holding “very little viable commercial fishing”. “This decision puts New Zealand back at the forefront of marine protection on the global stage”.

Environmental groups applauded the move, saying it added to a network of protected areas in the Pacific that now covered more than 3.5 million square kilometres.

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But Environment Minister Nick Smith says the claim is a red herring and there is “strong support” for the sanctuary. “There is increased pressure from over-fishing, mining and pollution, with the populations of fish and seabird species estimated to have halved over the past 40 years”.

NZ Prime Minister John Key