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World Heritage status for Kermadecs soon

Published: 6:25PM Monday August 30, 2010 Source: ONE News

The Kermadec Islands, New Zealand's northern-most territory, could soon receive World Heritage status.

The subtropical islands in the South Pacific ocean lie about 1000 kilometres north east of New Zealand, and are one of the most diverse marine areas in the world.

They have been earmarked for World Heritage status since 2006.
 
Kiwi scientists say they are keen to learn more about the islands.

Te Papa's fishes collection manager, Andrew Stewart says there's life waiting to be discovered in the region.

"What we don't know is the scope and the diversity of that life. We're only beginning to get a handle on that. It's a very exciting time to be studying. We now have the means to be sampling remotely, and sample deeply."

PEW Environment Group spokesman Jay Nelson says the most exciting part is that there are new species of fish being found there every two weeks.

"There's an enormous biodiversity of sea life that you don't find in most places in the world. Not only are the species new, but many of these species occur only in the Kermadec region, which is really phenomenal."

The New Zealand government has been working on getting the area recognised as a World Heritage site for some years.

Science Minister Wayne Mapp says they are ready to take the bid to the next level.

University Of Otago Professor Sir Alan Mark agrees the time has come.

"The biodiversity there is absolutely phenomenal. So the case is, as Wayne Mapp said, compelling for World Heritage, particularly in this year of international year of biodiversity. It's unique globally."

Experts admit they only know about 10% of everything there is to know about the Kermadecs and are keen to continue exploring the region.

There are currently 911 World Heritage sites around the world, 704 cultural, 180 natural, and 27 mixed. Unesco monitors the sites and the criteria for selecting them.

New Zealand has three World Heritage sites, Te Wahipounamu (covering various mountain areas in the south west of the South Island); Tongariro National Park, and the sub-Antarctic islands (Snares, Bounty, Antipodes, Auckland and Campbell islands).

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