Environment Southland councillors this week approved a plan which will help protect Fiordland from marine pests.
The Fiordland Marine Regional Pathway Management Plan is the first of its kind to be developed in New Zealand and aims to reduce the risk of marine pests being carried in on local and visiting vessels.
The Plan has been developed and will be implemented by a partnership group including Environment Southland, Fiordland Marine Guardians, Ministry for Primary Industries, Department of Conservation and Ngāi Tahu.
Marine biosecurity officer Shaun Cunningham said Fiordland is one of New Zealand’s most unique and nationally significant areas and it is vital we protect it.
The Plan incorporates rules for clean vessels, clean gear and residual seawater which will apply to vessels of all sizes entering the area. It also includes a Fiordland Clean Vessel Pass which will ensure vessel owners/operators are aware of the risks and the ways they can minimise them.
The proposed plan went out for public consultation in April 2016 and following public feedback, several changes have been made, including making the Clean Vessel Pass a mandatory requirement and redefining the area which the standards apply to.
The Plan will become operational following an appeal period which ends on 17 March. During this period only those who have already submitted are able to lodge an appeal.
Shaun said the ongoing development of a national pathway approach by the Ministry for Primary Industries is essential to strengthen the Fiordland plan and reduce the threats to our marine environment.
Fiordland Marine Guardians chair Dr Rebecca McLeod said marine pests have been identified as one of the biggest threats to the Fiordland Marine Area, so it is excellent to see this critical initiative come to fruition.
“The community totally understands the importance of keeping pests out of Fiordland, and so we hope they will embrace this initiative in order to protect this incredible part of our coastline.
"The Pathways Plan is a result of a long and concerted effort by a large number of people from the council, agencies, iwi, industry and the community. This is how we work in Fiordland - we tackle the tricky issues head on, and together we find a solution that is in the best interests of the Fiordland's environment and fisheries. Once again, Fiordland is leading the way with community-driven marine management,” Dr McLeod said.
"No boatie wants to be the one who brings a marine pest into Fiordland. We are simply providing a framework that will prevent them from being in that situation in the future."
Further information on the Plan and the requirements for vessels entering the Fiordland Marine Area is available on www.es.govt.nz.