Plans for a massive marine sanctuary at the Kermadecs, about 1000km northeast of New Zealand, have been announced by Prime Minister John Key at the UN General Assembly in New York.
The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary will cover 620,000 square kilometres, 50 times bigger than New Zealand's current biggest national park in Fiordland, encompassing some of the world's most geologically diverse landscapes.
The sanctuary will hold the world's longest chain of submerged volcanoes along with the second deepest ocean trench, measuring around 10km deep.
The Kermadec Islands Marine Reserve, at 7450 sq km, is already the country's largest marine reserve and conservation groups have long called for it to be expanded.
Mr Key said establishing the ocean sanctuary would prevent all fishing and mining in the area to add to the protections already in place.
"Creating protected areas will support not only our own fisheries, but those of our Pacific neighbours, adding to New Zealand's efforts to help grow Pacific economies through the responsible management of their ocean resources," he said in a statement yesterday.
"New Zealanders value our coasts and oceans, which are an important part of our culture, economy and environment and we are committed to managing them sustainably."
Green Party co-leader James Shaw told the Paul Henry programme today the move will ensure our pristine waters remain untouched.
"There's only about $110,000 worth of fishing that currently goes on there so it comes at very little economic cost," he says.
"There is a mining application in which is going to have to be redrawn, and so this will prevent mining in the area as well. It's a gorgeous area, it's incredibly diverse and it's important for the health of our oceans."
The area is 35 times larger than New Zealand's existing marine reserves and is an important breeding and feeding ground for seabirds, whales and dolphins, turtles, as well as fish and invertebrate.
Environment Minister Nick Smith says keeping the large area clear is manageable.
"Firstly we have our Navy that spend substantive time not just policing our own fishery zone, but also those of our Pacific neighbours," he says. "Secondly with satellite technology we are able to keep track."
NZN / 3 News