By Lou Sanson, DOC Director-General
Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary
Last week news broke of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary announcement made by the Prime Minister at the UN General Assembly. This will see 620,000 square kilometres of ocean around Raoul, Macauley, Cheeseman, Curtis and L’Esperance Islands protected to create one of the world’s largest ocean sanctuaries. It represents a significant commitment by New Zealand to the protection of marine environments internationally.
Some of our people have been working on this initiative with Pew Environment Group and WWF. The sanctuary has been long in the making, so it was fantastic to see this news announced in a global forum.
Heretaunga Tamatea Deed of Settlement signing
I was privileged to support our local staff at the Heretaunga Tamatea Deed of Settlement signing on 26 September at Te Aute College. Heretaunga Tamatea represents two Ngati Kahungunu groups based in Central Hawke’s Bay.
The settlement includes the transfer of five public conservation sites which are of particular cultural significance, as well as establishing key relationship instruments which will help Heretaunga Tamatea express their kaitiakitanga over public conservation land in their rohe.
Taranaki Iwi Deed of Settlement signing
On 5 September, I joined local staff at the Deed of Settlement ceremony for Taranaki iwi, held at Pukeiti near Egmont National Park. Taranaki Iwi are one of eight Taranaki groups and are based around the eastern side of Mount Taranaki.
As part of the Taranaki deed of settlement, Ministers agreed to transfer 18 public conservation sites and approved key relationship instruments.
This was a powerful and moving occasion for the more than 600 people in attendance and I was proud to represent the Department at this significant milestone.
Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme
In September I attended the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP) Annual Meeting in Apia, Samoa. SPREP is the most significant conservation and environment management organisation in the Pacific with 40% of work funded through the United Nations Environment and Development programmes and the Global Environment Fund. New Zealand’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) also funds SPREP with $1.5 million a year.
With a total budget of US$21 million and 90 staff based in Apia they have a critical focus on Pacific biodiversity and ecosystem management, environmental monitoring and climate change adaptation.
I was rapt to hear of the success of DOC’s flagship partnership programme with SPREP, being led by Annie Wheeler. This community conservation programme aims to safeguard six species of marine turtle through nesting habitat protection and profiling their conservation potential as an eco-tourism resource, bringing economic and social benefits to small communities in the Pacific region. The five year programme is funded by MFAT’s Partnerships Fund, with a contribution of over $600,000.
DOC is also consulting SPREP on invasive species management and marine species protection.
With this morning’s announcement of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, New Zealand joins a very exclusive club of pacific nations with giant Marine Protected Areas. At SPREP we spent significant time talking about the management of supersize marine protected areas throughout the pacific nations.
The first fine weekend in Spring I wandered into our new Kime Hut in the Tararuas. I was particularly pleased to see the care our Palmerston North and Wellington staff have put into the maintenance of our Otaki Forks public amenities, the scrub-bar work along the tracks and, in a 4.5 hour walk, I could only spot one blocked water-table! With $60 million of gravel out there on our tracks, I was hugely impressed to see the standards of maintenance to keep that gravel in place and provide a quality walk so close to Wellington.
To walk along the alpine ridge between Field and Kime Hut just after a snowstorm and to watch the sunset sinking into the ocean behind Kapiti Island has to be one of the most wonderful experiences possible within an hour of one of our major cities.
It was also great to bump into Angus Hulme-Moir, one of our rangers, in the hut – we froze that night!