Kermadec sanctuary anything but peaceful

Kermadec sanctuary anything but peaceful

The proposed Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary has hit political trouble.

Labour and the Maori Party are now considering withdrawing their support, with Labour even comparing it to the controversial Foreshore and Seabed Act.

But there are plenty of backers behind the scenes, including some big name American interests.

Hollywood director James Cameron called the Kermadec Trench one of the last great frontiers on the planet, and his efforts to preserve it include lobbying Prime Minister John Key.

"Yes, James Cameron has some time ago when I've met him on a few occasions. He's been a big supporter of what's been going on."

Mr Key announced the sanctuary at the United Nations in New York last year.

Kermadec sanctuary anything but peaceful


There had been lots of American lobbying -- including Secretary of State John Kerry with Ministers Murray McCully and Nick Smith.

New Zealand-based American billionaire Julian Robertson was also in the mix, and the Pew Trust -- a multi-billion dollar American charitable organisation -- also gave the sanctuary a big push.

The high-level American involvement has been criticised by the Maori Fisheries Trust -- Te Ohu Kaimoana -- which is taking court action against the sanctuary, arguing wasn't consulted properly.

In a statement today, it accused the Government of "grandstanding on the world stage".

And despite the opposition from Maori, the Government has been citing universal political support for the sanctuary.

"The Kermadecs is literally something that every political party in Parliament signed up for. There's nothing new that people have been arguing, the case that the Kermadecs should be put into an ocean sanctuary," Mr Key says.

But that's now in question. Labour issued a press statement calling it a "secret deal" and comparing it to the Foreshore and Seabed. 

And the Maori Party -- the Government's partner -- is considering withdrawing support too.

It's a sanctuary with legal and now political problems.