A Marine Protection Forum is heading to Oamaru this week.
The forum has been established to look at areas of the coast from Timaru to Waipapa Point and to make recommendations about Marine Protection Areas.
The MPA policy was developed over several years, during which time both National and Labour governments were in power. The policy traces back to when New Zealand signed up to the International Convention of Biological Diversity in the early 1990s.
Department of Conservation South East Marine Protection Forum communications and community engagement manager Ruth Mackenzie-White said the forum always intended coming to Oamaru.
“This is the first time the forum will meet in Oamaru. The plan is that every monthly meeting will be held in a different place on the coast, giving people the opportunity to attend without having to travel long distances. It is important that the forum is accessible to all communities.”
With a variety of meetings around the coast, it is likely the forum will return to Oamaru in the future.
“There are meetings planned right through until the end of the process. And the forum have already met with communities in Bluff and Karitane.”
Oamaru represented the Waitaki District well and that made it an important part of the forum.
“Oamaru is an important area on our map and one of the forum members, Philippa Agnew, is based there with the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony.”
The forum will be meeting a day before the public meeting and taking the opportunity to go to the penguin colony to learn more about this part of the coast and how it plays such an important role in the region’s biodiversity.
Mrs Mackenzie-White said they would love to see plenty of people at the forum.
“We hope that all sorts of interested people attend the meeting and would love to hear from anyone, be they recreational fishers, commercial fishers or people who love to marine mammal watch or swim and surf.
“Anyone with an interest in the marine environment is welcome to attend and to share their thoughts and concerns with the forum.”
The forum is being held on Thursday, February 12, at the Oamaru Opera House.
A Facebook page and website have been set up to help get information from people.