Marine protected areas policy

In 2005 the Department of Conservation and former Ministry of Fisheries formally released a policy statement and implementation plan for marine protected areas. This was designed to provide a more strategic approach to identifying and creating the network of representative protected marine areas identified in the Biodiversity Strategy. The purpose of the policy is to “protect marine biodiversity by establishing a network of MPAs [marine protected areas] that is comprehensive and representative of New Zealand’s marine habitats and ecosystems”. The Ministry for Primary Industries and the Department of Conservation are jointly responsible for implementing the policy.

The document provides that, in order to meet the requirements for a marine protected area, a management tool must enable the maintenance or recovery of the site’s biological diversity at the habitat and ecosystem level to a healthy functioning state. In particular, the management regime must provide for the maintenance and recovery at the site of:

  • Physical features and biogenic structures that support biodiversity
  • Ecological systems, natural species composition (including all life-history stages), and trophic linkages
  • Potential for the biodiversity to adapt and recover in response to perturbation

There are three types of protected area recognised in the policy, based on the capacity of the tool to restrict human fishing and non-fishing impacts, with only Type 1 and 2 recognised as having sufficient protection to qualify as ‘marine protected areas’:

  • Type 1: Marine protected areas that provided a high level of protection, including broad scope to restrict damaging activities (only marine reserves under the Marine Reserves Act 1971)
  • Type 2: Marine protected areas that provide only limited protection, but must as a minimum provide for prohibition of trawling, Danish seine netting and dredging
  • Type 3: Other protection tools that are similar to MPAs, but which do not sufficiently protect biodiversity to meet the standard of Type 1 or 2 above. Type 3 MPAs are relevant when measuring progress toward the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy target. 2728

Type 2 marine protection areas can include a wide range of protective mechanisms including cable protection zones, marine mammal sanctuaries, rules in regional coastal plans and provisions under the Crown Minerals Act 1991, Maritime Transport Act 1994 and Biosecurity Act 1993.

The policy takes a regional approach to the planning and establishment of a network of protected areas around New Zealand, although it is not aligned with regional council boundaries. A coastal and marine classification system, which identifies different types of marine habitat, has been developed, to help ensure that the network of marine protected areas is comprehensive and representative. Fourteen biogeographic regions have been identified, which collectively cover the entire New Zealand marine area within the territorial sea (12 nautical miles seawards). They are intended to reflect major coastal biological patterns. These regions have been further classified, through the application of additional layering criteria, into 44 different types of habitat. The layering used to identify these areas included:

  • Biogeographic region (14 regions)
  • Environment (estuarine or marine)
  • Depth (intertidal, shallow subtidal, deep subtidal)
  • Exposure (low, medium, high)
  • Substrate type (mud, sand, gravel, cobble, boulder, rocky, biogenic reef)

In 2011, the Department of Conservation undertook a gap analysis of marine protected areas, to determine how representative the network was. The report concluded that significant gaps existed. Of the ecosystem types that were represented in the existing network, only a very small proportion of their total area was subject to protection. 2729  The report found that 6.9 per cent of all coastal marine bioregions were protected within the coastal marine area, but that the figure was heavily influenced by two large marine reserves (Kermadec Islands and Subantarctic Islands). Aside from those two bioregions, less than one per cent was protected to a Type 1 standard. Approximately 1.14 per cent of the territorial sea was estimated to be protected to a Type 2 standard. Most marine bioregions nationally were poorly represented in marine protection. 2730

Recent implementation efforts for the policy have been concentrated on the territorial sea. As part of the agreement with the fishing industry to establish the 17 benthic protection areas in the EEZ, the government agreed not implement the marine protected areas policy within the EEZ until 2013. It is anticipated that planning in this area, when it does occur, will be undertaken by an expert offshore panel.

Each of the biogeographic regions is to be the focus of a planning process to be undertaken by community-based marine protection planning fora supported by staff from the Department of Conservation and the Ministry for Primary Industries. The fora will have up to 14 members including representatives from:

  • Tangata whenua
  • Commercial fishers
  • Recreational users including fishers, charter fishers and divers
  • Conservation groups
  • Tourism
  • Aquaculture industry
  • Marine science
  • Minerals industry

The fora are tasked with identifying potential sites and tools for area-based protection of biodiversity. They are expected to seek consensus on proposed areas and to make recommendations to the Ministers of Conservation and for Primary Industries. They are expected to constructively involve and engage stakeholders in each region and are required to seek written submissions on any recommendations being made. It was initially expected that each forum will produce a set of recommendations within 18 months of being appointed. In practice it has taken much longer than this.

The Marine protected areas: classification, protection standard and implementation guidelines, prepared by the former Ministry of Fisheries and the Department of Conservation provides design guidelines to assist the fora in identifying and selecting potential protected areas. These include guidance on identifying potential protected areas, on selecting candidate areas from among potential sites and for selecting appropriate tools for protecting the areas. Figure 6.x summarises these details.

Areas

Involves

Identifying Potential MPAs

  • Protect whole habitats and ecosystems
  • Be of sufficient size to provide for the maintenance of populations. Fewer larger areas are to be preferred than numerous smaller areas
  • Maximise and enhance linkages among individual and groups of protected areas
  • Include differences in habitats and ecosystems that cover both latitudinal and longitudinal or cross-shelf ranges (i.e. from the intertidal zone to deep offshore waters)
  • Consider adjacent uses which may affect the protected areas
  • Use simple boundaries and minimise boundary to area ratios

Selecting candidate MPAs - Primary Considerations

  • Protect the full range of marine habitats and ecosystems
  • Consider information on cultural use and values and Treaty settlement obligations
  • Consider information on social and economic interests and users
  • Minimise adverse impacts on existing users and Treaty settlement obligations

Selecting candidate MPAs - Secondary Considerations

  • Protect multiple habitats within each protected area
  • Have fewer larger rather than numerous smaller protected areas
  • Consider activities such coastal structures, dredging or dumping sites which may negatively impact on the site
  • Align where possible with other protected areas
  • Provide, where possible, replication of habitats and ecosystems

At the time of writing two fora had concluded for the West Coast South Island and Subantarctic biogeographic regions. A forum for the Otago coastline was announced in March 2014. The Hauraki Gulf Marine Spatial Planning process (called Seachange) is expected to develop recommendations for marine protected areas in the Hauraki Gulf (see Chapter 7).  An initiative led by Ngāti Kurī, known as Te Korowai o Te Tai o Marokura or Kaikōura Coastal Marine Guardians, worked in a collaborative manner to develop the Kaikōura Marine Strategy. This is in the process of being implemented through the Kaikōura (Te Tai-o-Marokura) Marine Management Act 2014.

The timetable for progressing the development of marine protection plans in other areas is uncertain. A review of spatial marine protection in New Zealand, the operation of planning fora, and recommendations for reform can be found in the EDS publication ‘Safeguarding our oceans’. 2736

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