Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the Department of Conservation (DOC) and Fisheries New Zealand are postponing public consultation on the proposed network of marine protection for the southeast South Island.
Both agencies recognise the lockdown under alert level 4 may limit people’s ability to effectively participate in the 2-month consultation process, which was due to end on 17 April.
The proposed network includes 6 marine reserves, where marine life would be fully protected and fishing banned, 5 marine protected areas, which would impose a range of restrictions to fishing, and one kelp protection area where commercial harvest of bladder kelp would be prohibited. There is currently no marine protection in this area.
DOC planning director Natasha Hayward says consultation will be postponed from today with a view to restarting it once COVID-19 restrictions have eased.
“Unfortunately, with the disruptions to people’s lives and work under the lockdown, and restrictions on accessing the consultation document at libraries and DOC offices, people may not be able to participate in the consultation process as they wish.”
“It’s important that everyone has an opportunity to have their say on the proposed marine protection network, which is why we’re postponing the consultation process for the time being,” says Natasha Hayward.
A decision to restart public consultation would be made once COVID-19 restrictions had been lifted, says Fisheries New Zealand’s director of fisheries management, Marianne Lukkien.
“We want to thank all those who have already made a submission on the proposed marine protected areas. We appreciate the time and effort you’ve put in to give feedback on these proposed marine protection measures.”
“Please be reassured that your submissions will be saved and can be used once consultation is reinstated if that is your wish,” says Marianne Lukkien.
All completed submissions and those still in progress through the Public Voice online submission portal will be saved, as will submissions sent via email or post.
DOC and Fisheries New Zealand will continue to consult with Treaty partner Ngāi Tahu about the proposed marine protected area network over coming months using communication methods that comply with social distancing requirements.
DOC and Fisheries New Zealand will inform people as to when consultation on the proposed marine protected areas will recommence.
The priority of DOC and Fisheries New Zealand is supporting New Zealand in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and saving lives.