A 17-year campaign to turn Akaroa Harbour into a marine reserve has finally paid off for a conservation group.
Conservation Minister Nick Smith today announced that a new 450 hectare marine reserve around the Dan Rogers Bluff has been approved.
"Akaroa is an iconic harbour that is hugely popular for recreation and tourism but its marine life is degraded. I have approved this new reserve around the spectacular Dan Rogers Bluff because it will enhance the area, assist scientific study and benefit the public," Smith said.
The announcement comes 17 years after the Akaroa Harbour Marine Protection Society made a formal application for the marine reserve.
The formal consultation had 2334 submissions in support and 709 objections, with the principal opponents being Ngai Tahu and recreational fishers.
"I have carefully considered the passionate and strongly felt arguments put by both supporters and opponents of this reserve," said Smith.
"I have not upheld the objections but have decided to adjust the northern boundary by 55ha, reducing the reserve to 475ha, to take account of concerns from customary and recreational fishers."
The marine reserve has faced a barrage of opposition and even a High Court review since the idea first came to light.
In 2010, the Akaroa Harbour Marine Protection Society challenged a decision by then Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson over her decision that declaring a marine reserve would interfere with the area's recreational use.
The High Court quashed Wilkinson's decision in 2012 and directed her to reconsider her assessment.
Smith admitted it had been difficult to secure a consensus in the community despite the best endeavours of six Ministers over nearly two decades.
"I concluded, with the support of both the applicant and principal objectors last month, that consensus in this case was not possible and that I needed to proceed to make a decision."
There are 39 marine reserves around New Zealand's coast line, including five new marine reserves along the West Coast of the South Island.
Akaroa Harbour is the sixth South Island marine reserve to be announced this year.
The picturesque harbour is a popular recreational and commercial fishing spot and is also home to a population of Hector's dolphins.