Conservation groups on Wednesday welcomed the creation of three large marine reserves around New Zealand's World Heritage-listed Subantarctic Islands.
The New Zealand Parliament approved the reserves late on Tuesday and they would come into formal effect on March 2, Conservation Minister Nick Smith said in a statement
"This new law, when enacted, will create 435,000 hectares of new marine reserves surrounding the Antipodes, Bounty and Campbell Islands in New Zealand's remote Subantarctic ocean," said Smith.
"The significance of these three new reserves is their huge size, near pristine state and remoteness. Their marine reserve status means there can be no fishing, no mining and no petroleum exploration within the protected areas."
The new reserves expanded the proportion of New Zealand's protected territorial seas from 7.1 percent to 9.5 percent, and helped to achieve the target of 10 percent as part of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.
The government was aiming to create a record number of marine reserves this year as part of a balanced program of economically developing some ocean areas and permanently protecting others, he said.
WWF-New Zealand on Wednesday welcomed the reserves as a positive step, but cautioned that a comprehensive plan for marine protection in New Zealand waters is needed.
"What New Zealand needs most of all is a comprehensive plan for looking after our marine environment. We all need to be clear on where we want protection, where we can fish and what other type of activities will be allowed," WWF-New Zealand head of campaigns Peter Hardstaff said in a statement.
"This plan needs to include setting aside our most ecologically important marine habitats and a good starting point would be to create a Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary. Protecting this nearly pristine area, home to an amazing array of marine life, would be a significant step in global marine conservation."