Legislation

The key pieces of legislation relating to the marine environment are shown in the figure below.

Management Area

Legislation

Spatial Area

Managing Authorities

Resource management

Resource Management Act 1991 (including New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 2010)

Catchments, islands and territorial sea

-  Minister of Conservation
-  Regional councils
-  Territorial authorities

Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012

Exclusive economic zone and extended continental shelf

-  Minister for the Environment
-  Environmental Protection Authority

Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act 2000

Hauraki Gulf territorial sea, islands and catchments

Hauraki Gulf Forum members

Fisheries

-  Fisheries Act 1996
-  Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Settlement Act 1992
-  Fisheries (Quota Operations Validation) Act 1997
-  Māori Fisheries Act 2004
-  Māori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act 2004

Freshwater, territorial sea and exclusive economic zone

-  Minister for Primary Industries
-  Supported by Ministry for Primary Industries

Mining

-  Crown Minerals Act 1991
-  Continental Shelf Act 1964

Land, territorial sea, exclusive economic zone and extended continental shelf

-  Minister of Energy and Resources
-  Supported by Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment through New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals

Marine pollution, except that managed by the EPA

Maritime Transport Act 1994

Territorial sea and exclusive economic zone

Maritime New Zealand

Biosecurity

Biosecurity Act 1993

Territorial sea and exclusive economic zone

Maritime New Zealand

Marine protection

Marine Reserves Act 1971

Territorial sea

-  Minister of Conservation
-  Supported by Department of Conservation 

Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978

Territorial sea and exclusive economic zone

Wildlife Act 1952

Land, territorial sea and exclusive economic zone

Fiordland (Te Moana o Atawhenua) Marine Management Act 2005

Fiordland (Te Moana o Atawhenua) Marine Area

Fiordland Marine Guardians (advisory)

Historic heritage

Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014

Land and territorial sea

Heritage New Zealand - Pouhere Taonga

Coastal reserves 

Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011

Marine and coastal area 

-  Ministry of Justice responsible for administering protected customary right and customary marine title applications
-  Minister of Conservation has various administrative functions not conferred on a local authority or other person

Resource Management Act 1991

Most activities that have an environmental impact on the territorial sea, with the major exception of fishing, are managed under the RMA. These include land-based activities which impact on the marine area such as farming, forestry and urban development; activities within the marine area such as boating and aquaculture; and major marine works such as reclamation, dredging and the construction of wharves, jetties, sea walls and outfalls. 

The RMA is described in detail elsewhere on this website.

Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012

The regulatory regime provided by the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012 (EEZ Act) is designed to cover previously unregulated activities beyond the 12 nautical mile jurisdiction of the RMA. The EEZ Act was not intended to duplicate controls that regulate the fishing industry, maritime transport, the allocation of petroleum resources, and the response to oil spills. 2473  Most other activities that have an environmental impact on the EEZ or continental shelf are managed under the EEZ Act, including petroleum and minerals activities.

The EEZ Act is described in detail elsewhere on this website.

Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act 2000

As well as being managed under the RMA and other legislation, the Hauraki Gulf has its own dedicated piece of legislation - the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act 2000 (HGMPA). This legislation seeks to improve the environmental management of the Gulf through achieving better integration of the numerous statutory authorities which impact on the area and providing better recognition of the relationships of tangata whenua with the Gulf.

The HGMPA is described in detail elsewhere on this website.

Fisheries Act 1996

The Fisheries Act 1996 governs fisheries management throughout New Zealand’s territorial sea and EEZ. The purpose of the Act is “to provide for the utilisation of fisheries resources while ensuring sustainability”. 2474

The Fisheries Act is described in detail elsewhere on this website.

Crown Minerals Act 1991

The purpose of the Crown Minerals Act is to promote prospecting for, exploration for, and mining of Crown owned minerals for the benefit of New Zealand.

The Crown Minerals Act is described in detail elsewhere on this website.

Maritime Transport Act 1994

The Maritime Transport Act is primarily focused on the safety of shipping. The Act does not have an explicit purpose, but it does state that the objectives for the Minister of Transport under the Act.

The Act provides that “harmful substances shall not be discharged or escape” into the sea or seabed within the EEZ or continental shelf except in accordance with marine protection rules. Marine protection rules made under this Act provide for both marine safety and pollution prevention within the coastal marine area and EEZ.  

Oil spill preparedness is funded by an industry levy, the Oil Pollution Levy, which is required under the Act. The Levy is collected to run New Zealand’s maritime oil pollution preparedness and response system.

Biosecurity Act 1993

The transport of invasive species into New Zealand waters by shipping is primarily controlled under the Biosecurity Act 1993. The jurisdiction of the Biosecurity Act was extended to apply to the EEZ in 2012.

An Import Health Standard has been established under this Act, which prohibits ballast water loaded in another country, being discharged inside New Zealand territorial waters without permission. The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments, adopted in February 2004, provides for internationally consistent controls over shipping ballast water, but these have yet to come into force. The convention will enter into force 12 months after ratification by 30 States, representing 35 per cent of world merchant shipping tonnage. As of June 2013, 37 States have ratified the Convention, representing just over 30 per cent of the world merchant fleet tonnage. 2475  This is discussed further in Chapter 5: Marine biosecurity.

The Biosecurity Act is described in detail elsewhere on this website.

Marine Reserves Act 1971

The Marine Reserves Act, administered by the Department of Conservation, provides for the establishment of marine reserves. The long title states that it is an “Act to provide for the setting up and management of areas of the sea and foreshore as marine reserve for the purpose of preserving them in their natural state as the habitat of marine life for scientific study”.

The Act applies only to the territorial sea and thus marine reserves cannot be established beyond the 12-mile limit in the EEZ. A number of bodies including the Director-General of Conservation, a university, and hapū or iwi with tangata whenua status are able to propose a marine reserve. Following public consultation, the Minister of Conservation (with the concurrence of the Ministers of Transport and Primary Industries) determines whether or not to recommend the establishment of the proposed marine reserve.

The Department of Conservation is responsible for managing marine reserves. Marine reserves are to be preserved in their “natural” state, to the extent possible. Although the purpose of marine reserves under the Act is for “scientific study”, the establishment of highly protected areas provides considerable benefits for biodiversity and may also help support fisheries through spillover effects.

There are currently over 30 marine reserves in New Zealand’s territorial sea. A list of current and proposed marine reserves, and information about them, can be found at the Department of Conservation’s website. 2476

It is widely accepted that the Marine Reserves Act is outdated and needs reform. The fomer Minister of Conservation signalled an intention to develop new and broader marine protected area legislation.

Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978

Marine mammals are managed by the Department of Conservation under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978. A permit is required to “take” (the definition includes to harm, harass, injure and attract) a marine mammal in captivity or to remove one from its natural habitat. Any fishing operation using a purse seine net is required to incorporate an escape panel or aperture in the net which allows any dolphin or porpoise to readily escape. 2477  When a marine mammal is accidentally injured or killed, the legislation provides a defence against prosecution, so long as the incident is reported to the relevant authority.

The legislation makes provision for the preparation of population management plans for marine mammal species. Where a species is threatened, such plans can determine the maximum allowable level of fishing-related mortality for the species that would “allow the species to achieve non-threatened status as soon as reasonably practicable, and in any event within a period not exceeding 20 years”. Such plans require the approval of the Minister of Conservation and the concurrence of the Minister for Primary Industries before they take effect. The Minister for Primary Industries considers the impact of the plan on commercial fishing. No population management plans have been approved since these provisions were inserted into the legislation in 1996. In their absence, provisions in the Fisheries Act have been used to manage the effect of fishing on protected species (discussed previously),

Marine mammal sanctuaries can be established by the Minister of Conservation under the Act for the purpose of protecting, conserving and managing marine mammals and these are managed by the Department of Conservation. There are currently six marine mammal sanctuaries: Auckland Islands, Banks Peninsula, Catlins Coast, Clifford and Cloudy Bay, Te Waewae Bay, and West Coast North Island. 2478  The New Zealand Gazette notice for a marine mammal sanctuary specifies the restrictions that apply to activities within the sanctuary. For example, the West Coast North Island marine mammal sanctuary puts in place restrictions on seabed mining activities and acoustic seismic surveying.

Wildlife Act 1953

The Wildlife Act 1953 identifies protected species and it is an offence to hunt or kill such species. 2479  However, protected species may be captured, injured or killed inadvertently or as part of any fishing operation and the legislation provides a defence against prosecution when this happens, so long as the incident is reported to the relevant authority.

Currently, marine species protected within the territorial sea and EEZ under the Act include: 2481

  • black coral (all species in the order of Antipatharia)
  • Gorgonian coral
  • Stony coral
  • hydrocorals
  • oceanic whitetip shark
  • basking shark
  • deepwater nurse shark
  • white pointer shark
  • whale shark
  • manta ray
  • spinetail devil ray
  • giant grouper
  • spotted black grouper
  • marine reptiles such as turtles and sea snakes and marine birds.

All seabirds are protected under the Act except for the black-backed gull. Sooty shearwaters (mutton bird) and grey-faced petrels (northern mutton bird) and the black, little and pied shag may be killed subject to conditions set by the Minister of Conservation and their chicks can be legally harvested by iwi and mana whenua at identified sites. 

Fiordland (Te Moana o Atawhenua) Marine Management Act 2005

The Fiordland (Te Moana o Atawhenua) Marine Management Act (Fiordland Act) implements the Fiordland Marine Conservation Strategy completed in 2003 by the Guardians of Fiordland’s Fisheries and Marine Environment Incorporated. This group consisted of commercial fishers, recreational fishers, charter boat operators, iwi, environmentalists and scientists. The legislation created eight new marine reserves within the fiords covering an area of 103 square kilometres, or one per cent of the Fiordland marine biogeographic region. The Fiordland Marine Guardians have an ongoing role as government-appointed advisors to oversee monitoring and management of the area.

Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014

Historic marine sites and places can be protected either under the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014 or the RMA.

The Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act is described in detail elsewhere on this website.

Reserves Act 1977

The Reserves Act has a number of purposes, including: 2482

  • Providing for the preserving and managing areas of public enjoyment
  • Ensuring, as far as possible, the survival of indigenous species
  • Preserving representative samples of natural ecosystems and landscapes
  • Promoting the protection of the coast’s natural character

Reserves can be established on the coast (and inland) under the Reserves Act 1977 and these can help protect catchment areas draining into the sea. Reserve land is categorised on the basis of its primary purpose as either recreation, historic, scenic, nature, scientific, government or local. Each reserve is required to have a reserve management plan and to be managed in accordance with the purpose for which it is classified.

The Reserves Act also provides mechanisms for the protection of privately-owned land including the declaration of protected private land, the establishment of conservation covenants and the establishment of Nga Whenua Rahui kawenata on Māori land.

Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011

The Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011 (MCA Act) established a new regime for the recognition of customary rights and title over the common marine and coastal area. The legislation defines a “common marine and coastal area” which includes the marine and coastal area, excluding existing freehold title and areas owned by the Crown as conservation areas, national parks or reserves. It states that the common marine and coastal area has a “special status” and that neither the Crown nor any other person owns, or is capable of owning it. 2483  Every person has the right to enter, pass over, and engage in recreational activities in the common marine and coastal area. 2484  

This legislation is discussed in described in detail elsewhere on this website.

  1. Ministry for the Environment, 2012

  2. Fisheries Act 1996, section 8

  3. http://www.ballast-water-treatment.com/reglementation/237-2

  4. Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978, section 17

  5. Wildlife Act 1952, section 63A

  6. http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1953/0031/latest/DLM278598.html

  7. http://www.doc.govt.nz/about-doc/role/legislation/guides-and-bylaws/a-guide-for-reserve-administering-bodies/chapter-2-powers-under-the-reserves-act/

  8. MCA Act 2011, section 11

  9. MCA Act 2011, section 26

Last updated at 2:11PM on February 25, 2015