What is the 'coastal environment'?

The seaward edge of the coastal environment is the edge of the territorial sea which is 12 nautical miles from land. The landward edge of the coastal environment is not so clear. The Planning Tribunal has stated that the coastal environment is an environment in which the coast is a significant part of element and: 1527

What constitutes the coastal environment will vary from place to place and according to the position from which a place is viewed. Where there are hills behind the coast, it will generally extend up to the dominant ridge behind the coast.

However, in relation to a resource consent application to construct a wind farm on the Mt Cass ridge, a two-hour drive from Christchurch, the Environment Court held that the ridge was not within the coastal environment because, even though it was a dominant formation and visible from parts of the coast, it was not characterised by coastal vegetation or other coastal processes. 1528

Policy 1 of the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 2010 gives further guidance:

  1. Recognise that the extent and characteristics of the coastal environment vary from region to region and locality to locality; and the issues that arise may have different effects in different localities.
  2. Recognise that the coastal environment includes:
    a.  the coastal marine area;
    b.  islands within the coastal marine area;
    c.  areas where coastal processes, influences or qualities are significant, including coastal lakes, lagoons, tidal estuaries, saltmarshes, coastal wetlands, and the margins of these;
    d.  areas at risk from coastal hazards;
    e.  coastal vegetation and the habitat of indigenous coastal species including migratory birds;
    f.   elements and features that contribute to the natural character, landscape, visual qualities or amenity values;
    g.  items of cultural and historic heritage in the coastal marine area or on the coast;
    h.  inter-related coastal marine and terrestrial systems, including the intertidal zone; and
    i.   physical resources and built facilities, including infrastructure, that have modified the coastal environment.


  1. Northland Regional Planning Authority v Whangarei County (1977) A4828 (TCPAB)

  2. Mainpower NZ Ltd v Hurunui DC [2011] NZEnvC 384

Last updated at 2:14PM on February 25, 2015