Marine Protected Areas

The identification of spatial marine areas for protection purposes is a useful approach to help preserve marine biodiversity as well as to maintain the overall health of the marine environment. Such areas commonly fall under the umbrella term “marine protected areas”. This term is not currently defined in statute in New Zealand. However, the Marine protected areas policy statement and implementation plan (MPA Policy) prepared jointly by the Department of Conservation and the former Ministry of Fisheries in 2005, has defined a marine protected area as being:

An area of the marine environment especially dedicated to, or achieving, through adequate protection, the maintenance and/or recovery of biological diversity at the habitat and ecosystem level in a healthy functioning state.4800

Government has adopted the objective of establishing a network of marine protected areas to protect the full range or marine habitats and ecosystems representative of New Zealand’s indigenous marine biodiversity. In 2000 the government released the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy in order to fulfil, in part, the country’s commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity. As an action to achieve the objective of protecting marine habitats and ecosystems, the Biodiversity Strategy identifies: 

Achieve a target of protecting 10 percent of New Zealand’s marine environment by 2010 in view of establishing a network of representative protected marine areas.” 4801

 Marine protected areas can be designed to protect complete habitats and ecosystems within an area, or can be more specifically tailored to protect specific habitats such as seamounts. Spatial areas can also be used to protect specific species such as marine mammals or seabirds, although such areas are not included within the definition of marine protected areas set out in the Government’s MPA Policy. 

Marine protected areas may be fully protected, where all potentially harmful activities are excluded, such as fishing, mining, aquaculture and dredging. These are classified as ‘Type 1’ under the MPA Policy. Alternatively, the areas may be subject to varying degrees of regulation, such as those excluding activities like dredging and trawling which might impact on sensitive seabed habitats. There are classified as ‘Type 2’. Where there is only partial protection in place, certain minimum requirements must be met, for the area to be considered a marine protected area under the MPA Policy.


  1. Marine protected areas policy statement and implementation plan 2005 at 10. 

  2. New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy 2000 at 67. 

Last updated at 7:34PM on February 8, 2018