If you’d read some of the media reports on the Government’s decision on protecting the Antarctic Ross Sea marine reserve, you could be forgiven for thinking we’d got a good result.

Unfortunately the truth is far from good. This cartoon in today’s Herald says it all.

Cartoon courtesy of the NZH and Rod Emmerson

The New Zealand Government has rejected an invaluable opportunity for a joint proposal with the US to protect the Ross Sea.  In unison the US and New Zealand would have had a much greater chance of succeeding with consensus at the international forum of 24 nations + the EU where the matter will be decided in October.

The two countries will instead submit separate proposals thereby significantly reducing the likelihood of substantive protection for the Ross Sea.

We heard Minister McCully saying “New Zealand’s proposal if successful, will be the largest marine protected version anywhere in the world - nine times the size of New Zealand". That sounds great but without the US it is unlikely to happen.

What is more the current NZ proposal, as large as it is, does not include all the vital areas that really need protecting, but is carefully designed to leave out any areas that are associated with fishing. It misses vital habitats and does not safeguard the heart of the Ross Sea ecosystem.

New Zealand’s proposal is like going into battle wearing a suit of armor that has no helmet.

Despite our role as historic guardians of the Ross Sea our Government has abandoned the Last Ocean and sided with the fishing industry - putting the needs of the small and economically marginal toothfish fishery ahead of protecting the most pristine ocean on the planet.

NZ once had a reputation as a leader on environmental protection.  This decision is shameful.