The New Zealand government is aiming to establish an ocean sanctuary around the Kermadec Islands. The Kermadec Islands are located about 1000km northeast of the North Island.
The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary would cover 620,000 square kilometres – about twice the size of New Zealand’s land area!
It would be off-limits to commercial fishing and aquaculture, recreational fishing and fishing-related tourism, as well as oil and gas mining.
Environment Minister Nick Smith said last week that the sanctuary represented a significant commitment to protecting the ocean environment.
Dr Smith said it would contain about 6 million birds of various species, 35 species of whale and dolphins, three species of turtle and 150 species of fish.
However, Māori fisheries trust Te Ohu Kaimoana is taking legal action against the government.
Chairperson Jamie Tuuta said the government had ignored the impact the sanctuary would have on iwi fishing interests.
The bill establishing the sanctuary passed its first reading in Parliament unanimously last week.
The Sealord deal in 1992 gave fishing rights to Māori, and guaranteed that the Crown would involve Māori in statutory decisions.
Mr Tuuta said that had not happened in this case, and the bill said no compensation would be paid as a result of the change.