An Akaroa community group is celebrating after the High Court ordered the conservation minister to reconsider a proposed 530ha marine reserve, bringing it one step closer to reality.
The High Court upheld a judicial review brought by the Akaroa Harbour Marine Protection Society against minister Kate Wilkinson’s 2010 objection to the proposal on the grounds that it would adversely affect recreational fishing in the area.
The society has been advocating for a harbour marine reserve for more than 17 years.
Secretary Kathleen Reid said: "We first became interested in having a marine reserve because we were very concerned about the degradation of the fish life and the diminishing biodiversity we were witnessing in our own lifetimes.
"Akaroa harbour has seen an enormous influx of fishers over the last 30 to 40 years and overfishing has resulted in the red cod disappearing from the harbour."
A marine reserve was important for biodiversity (including the endangered Hector’s dolphins) and fisheries, she said, and would help restore that part of Akaroa Harbour to its natural state for future generations.
Rebecca Bird, WWF-New Zealand’s marine programme manager, called it a great victory for the "visionary and persistent" people of Akaroa.
“It is also an important reminder to the conservation minister that the full benefits of a marine reserve must be considered alongside adverse affects. We are confident that Minister Wilkinson will recognise that the value of protecting this important area and declare this area a marine reserve.”