The West Coast Marine Protection Forum was established in 2005, as a nonstatutory body, by the West Coast Conservator of the Department of Conservation in response to considerable interest from local stakeholder groups. The purpose of the Forum was to consider how best to achieve integrated marine protection on the west coast of the South Island and to develop recommendations that satisfied the objectives in the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy and the principles of the MPA Policy. The geographical area to be considered by the Forum covered the West Coast Regional Council coastal boundary which extends 600 kilometres from Kahurangi Point in the north to Awarua Point in the south. The seaward boundary extends to the 12 nautical mile limit of the territorial sea and the onshore boundary is to mean high water springs.
DoC is the best source of informaiton on the West Coast Marine Reserve. Unfortunately all the materials formerly on the West Coast Forum web site have now been taken off line.
DoC information web page with illustrations and maps of the five West Coast marine reserves
DoC informaiton web page on the process of creating of five new marine reserves on the West Coast
What are the significant habitat features of each proposed reserve?
Kahurangi Marine Reserve includes representative examples of northern West Coast marine habitats and ecosystems over a range of depths. There is a rich diversity of fish and invertebrate species, partly due to the abundant reef habitat and the influence of more northern species. The area is important for marine mammals. It adjoins Kahurangi National Park and the intact Heaphy River catchment draining into the sea within this location, maximising the connectivity and enhancing the linkages with the protected coasts and catchments of the Kahurangi National Park. The sand dune and beach vegetation of the Kahurangi-Oparara coastline has higher biodiversity values than any other section of coast between Farewell Spit and Saltwater Lagoon in South Westland.
Punakaiki Marine Reserve includes representative examples of a variety of northern West Coast marine habitats and ecosystems. The rocky shore biological communities are typical of the northern West Coast, but their overall extent, diversity, and accessibility is notable relative to many other parts of the same area. It is adjacent to the coastal habitats and ecosystems of Paparoa National Park and the closed whitebaiting areas in Bullock Creek and tributaries of the Punakaiki River, maximising the connectivity and enhancing the marine/terrestrial linkages. The area's dramatic coastline includes the internationally significant Pancake Rocks and blowholes at Dolomite Point.
Waiau Glacier Coast Marine Reserve includes a number of central West Coast marine habitats. The area is a good example of central Westland coastal landscapes that are dominated by past and present glaciations, and it supports fish, invertebrates and seaweeds that are typical of the middle latitudes of the West Coast. It is close to the internationally renowned Ōkārito Lagoon and other natural estuaries that are important spawning and nursery habitat for indigenous fish such as giant kokopu and inanga. The reserve adjoins the Ōkārito Mataitai Reserve and some largely unmodified coastal lands within Westland Tai Poutini National Park and Te Wāhipounamu South West New Zealand World Heritage Area.
Tauparikaka Marine Reserve is a good example of natural beach and tidal lagoon habitats. The area is notable for coastal dunes that have a high biodiversity value. There are wetland, sand dune, and lowland forest habitats nearby and Ship Creek /Tauparikaka flows through public conservation land from a natural forested catchment that is part of Te Wāhipounamu South West New Zealand World Heritage Area. The sea portion is part of an area known for an unusually high presence of Hector's dolphins, and adjoins the Tauparikaka Mataitai Reserve. The site offers immediate visitor educational opportunities on the vital interaction between typical West Coast ecosystems and habitats.
Hautai Marine Reserve includes representative examples of a variety of southern latitude West Coast marine habitats lying on the inshore margins of a complex submarine landscape of canyons and rocky reefs. This section of coast has habitats of high wildlife value, including marine mammals and seabirds. It adjoins a large expanse of protected conservation land within Te Wāhipounamu South West New Zealand World Heritage Area.
Did the West Coast MPA Process hit the mark for conservation?
First the West Coast people involved and the Government and its Departments deserve credit for committing to running a participatory forum process under the new MPA Policy, this was the first such attempt. In terms of outcomes however it is hard to understand how such a small amount of area actualy covered in fully protected areas (type 1 ptrotection areas) could possibly meet biodiversity or Marine Protected Areas goals. It clearly can't. This is disappointing. That said the process was a first and the there are important lessons to be learned from it.
The Environmental Defense Society in its book Safe Guarding our Seas reviews the West Coast MPA Forum process and outcomes see the chapter 17 discussion from EDS below in the document archive download list.
West Coast Marine Protected Areas Document Archive