December 2004
This report details restrictions on marine activities in New Zealand waters.

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Area-based restrictions in the New Zealand marine environment report (PDF, 6,409K)
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Most of these restrictions cover commercial and recreational fishing and other marine harvesting such as shellfish or seaweed gathering. There are also restrictions on activities near underwater cables and pipelines and restrictions covering harmful materials in the marine environment.

Some restrictions apply throughout New Zealand waters while others cover specific areas.

On this page you can read the Preface and Executive Summary and you can download the report.


New Zealand has one of the largest exclusive economic zones (EEZs) in the world, and marine scientists estimate as much as 80% of New Zealand’s indigenous biodiversity is found in the sea. Much of our economy is based on the use of marine biological resources. However, this can impact on the biodiversity values of the marine environment. Human interactions with the marine environment must therefore be managed to ensure that its natural characteristics are maintained for the benefit of all, including future generations.

To better address biodiversity decline and meet international obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity, the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy (NZBS, 2000) was launched. One of the priority actions of the NZBS was to develop a Marine Protected Areas Policy to protect a full range of natural marine habitats and ecosystems to effectively conserve marine biodiversity, using a range of appropriate mechanisms, including legal protection. At the time of writing, this proposed policy is yet to be finalised.

Many communities are engaged in discussions about marine protection within their regions. This report illustrates the area-based restrictive provisions existing in the New Zealand marine environment as of February 2004. The Department’s expectation is these maps showing area-based restrictions, may be used in wider community discussions about protecting marine ecosystems and biodiversity and identifying areas in which it may be suitable to establish a marine protected area (MPA).

Protection needs to address a range of actual and potential threats to biodiversity not all of which can be addressed by area-based management tools. Terrestrial sources of marine pollution must also be taken into consideration. Terrestrial run-off for example, is of particular concern in many harbours. Land use patterns may therefore, be as significant as marine use in managing the coastal marine environment and thus need to be carefully managed.

This resource may be used in conjunction with other resources such as the National Aquatic Biodiversity Information System (NABIS) which has recently been launched (see Related Links). This is a Ministry of Fisheries website application that uses GIS tools to provide spatial and visual representations of marine biological data and fisheries management data.

Other resources being developed include the Marine Environment Classification (MEC) led by the Ministry for the Environment and the Interim Nearshore Marine Classification (INMARC) by the Department of Conservation. It is intended that together these resources will be useful in work relating to the creation of a comprehensive, adequate and representative network of marine protected areas throughout New Zealand’s marine environment.

Alan Edmonds
General Manager, Science, Technology & Information Services
Department of Conservation

Executive summary

This report addresses central government restrictive provisions in the marine environment. This includes restrictive provisions under the Fisheries Act 1996 and its associated regulations; the Submarine Cables and Pipeline Protection Act 1996; and areas gazetted or established by Order in Council under the Conservation Act 1987, Marine Reserves Act 1971, Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978, Reserves Act 1977 and Wildlife Act 1953.

The New Zealand marine environment contains numerous area-based restrictive provisions. Within a particular area the restrictive provisions often have different boundaries which results in a complex matrix of provisions. In some areas there are duplicate provisions that address the same or similar matters.

An earlier project mapped these area-based restrictive provisions for the wider EEZ and the data was used to generate the maps and associated tables found in this report. The maps in this report cover much of the New Zealand mainland coastline, many of the islands within 20 nautical miles of the New Zealand mainland, the Kermadec Islands, Auckland Islands, Chatham Islands and the seamounts on which there are trawling restrictions. The report also summarises the nationwide restrictive provisions in the marine environment.

Outside of marine reserves, there are few areas in which the restrictive provisions collectively result in a high degree of protection from potentially damaging activities. Many of the restrictive provisions are for fisheries management purposes, where the level of restriction on activities that damage ecological values is not usually high. Examples of the few areas outside of marine reserves where restrictive provisions result in a high level of control on potentially damaging fishing activities include the Tawharanui Peninsula waters and Double Cove in the Marlborough Sounds. In both cases amateur and commercial fishing are excluded. The majority of submarine cable and pipeline protection areas prohibit activities such as anchoring and fishing except for specified research and maintenance purposes.

In some cases the prohibition of one or several damaging fishing methods can make a big difference for valued and/or at risk biota. For example, a prohibition on the use of trawl nets, Danish seine nets and dredges by commercial fishers has protected the Tasman Bay Separation Point bryozoan communities within the area of the prohibition, from trawl and dredge damage. There can however, still be significant fishing and other pressures in areas where the restrictive provisions are relatively strong. This can occur in easily accessed areas that are subject to high levels of recreational fishing.

Caution is therefore needed in interpreting the effect of particular restrictive provisions; numerous other factors need to be taken into consideration. These include habitat types, accessibility, nature of the restrictions, level and nature of any fishing activities, and non-harvest impacts such as sedimentation and pollution.

Publication information

This report was prepared by Victoria A. Froude with maps by Roger Smith.

ISBN: 0-478-22644-6

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