It could be some time before a decision is made on whether Northland should be the next region in the country to have a Marine Protection Area along the coastline.
Whangarei MP Phil Heatley wrote to Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson last week, formally requesting Northland be considered as the next region for an MPA.
Mr Heatley said he had no pre-conceived ideas where such an area should be and only wanted to get the process started, but said the Tutukaka coast, which has a marine reserve around the Poor Knights Islands, diving attractions like the sunken naval ships Waikato and Tui, and the protected Ngunguru Sandspit, should be looked at.
A spokesman for Ms Wilkinson said the minister had received Mr Heatley's request and it would be considered. However, the spokesman said, this was just the start of the process and it would be a while before any decisions were made and no timeframe had been set for the matter to be concluded.
The Department of Conservation and the Ministry of Primary Industries would also have to be involved in any MPA proposals.
The possibility of an MPA in Northland has been welcomed by Whangarei District Council member, Dive Tutukaka operator and Northland Tourism Development Group chairman Jeroen Jongejans.
Mr Jongejans has already proposed an 1800sq km marine reserve off Whangarei's east coast that he said could generate $22 million a year for Northland.
His proposal would see commercial fishing banned in an 1800sq km triangle from Whangarei Heads to Cape Brett and to the Poor Knights Islands. Recreational fishing would be allowed, with reduced bag limits, except in a few protected areas.
He said the plan had won the backing of environmental groups, the council and the Northland Chamber of Commerce.
But commercial fishers have vowed to fight the plan, with Whangarei Fisherman's Association president Greg Hayes saying there was no scientific evidence to back imposing such a big no-take zone for commercial fishers.