7 Sep 2014

Reserves protect dolphins, penguins

4:56 pm on 7 September 2014

Five new marine reserves have been officially opened today on the West Coast of the South Island to protect a range of marine ecosystems for conservation, science and recreation.

The reserves - Kahurangi, Punakaiki, Waiau Glacier Coast, Tauparikaka and Hautai - are the first such reserves for the West Coast outside Fiordland.

They will protect some of the shore and seabed habitats of special marine life such as Hector's dolphins and blue penguins.

Conservation Minister Nick Smith said the reserves represent a great result for conservation on the West Coast.

He said 70 percent of New Zealand's endemic species are in the ocean, yet the bulk of our historic protective effort has been on land.

The sites were chosen to protect a representative range of habitats.

Some low-impact activities are still allowed within the reserves' boundaries.

However, the Green Party said the National-led government has had six years to protect the marine environment but waited until two weeks before Election Day to open the new reserves.

It described the move as a stunt.