The public submission period for this proposal closed at 5 pm 18 May 2021. This is a proposal to establish a marine mammal sanctuary in Te Pēwhairangi (Bay of Islands).


The Minister of Conservation is proposing to declare a marine mammal sanctuary in Te Pēwhairangi (Bay of Islands), pursuant to section 22 of the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978.

On this page:

Submissions closed 18 May 2021

On behalf of the Minister of Conservation, DOC invited submissions on this proposal to establish a marine mammal sanctuary (MMS). Submissions closed on 18 May 2021. You can view all the submissions below.

Read the Submissions

DOC received 645 submissions on the proposal to establish a marine mammal sanctuary in Te Pēwhairangi (Bay of Islands). All submissions and their attachments can be accessed below.

Submissions have been allocated a unique number. If a submission had supporting documentation, the supporting documentation can be found in the submission attachment documents.

Find a Submission

You can use the search function in the documents to find a particular submission. Clicking on the submission name in the content list will take you to that submission within the document.

The table at the beginning of each submission shows if the submission has supporting documents. If it does have supporting documents, they can be found in either of the submission document attachments above.

Redactions of contact details, and other information, have been made in accordance with the Official Information Act 1982.

Why new measures are proposed

The bottlenose dolphin population is declining in Te Pēwhairangi (Bay of Islands). This area has a uniquely high levels of vessel interactions affecting all marine mammals.

The near-constant presence of people and vessels disrupts normal behaviours critical for survival, such as resting and feeding. This can cause:

  • stress
  • reduce reproductive success, and
  • make marine mammals prone to illness.

These factors may have led to high calf mortality and subsequent decline in numbers. Findings from research into the bottlenose dolphin population in Te Pēwhairangi (Bay of Islands) include:

  • The bottlenose population has declined significantly, from 278 in 1997 to 26 in 2020.
  • Of these 26 individuals, only 16 now frequently visit Te Pēwhairangi (Bay of Islands).
  • 75% of all calves die before reaching adulthood.
  • No new calves were born during peak calving season (December to February) in 2019/20.
  • In Te Pēwhairangi (Bay of Islands), bottlenose dolphins spend on average 86% of daylight hours in the presence of at least one vessel. After interacting with people and vessels, the dolphins take up to 6 hours to return to normal behaviour. With decreasing numbers of bottlenose dolphins, other marine mammals visiting Te Pēwhairangi (Bay of Islands) now face the same pressures as the focus shifts to them.

More information about the issues for the Bay of Islands bottlenose dolphin:

Summary of the proposal


The new marine mammal sanctuary is proposed for Te Pēwhairangi (Bay of Islands). It also includes two marine mammal safe zones.

Map of Te Pēwhairangi (Bay of Islands) showing the proposal (PDF, 4,535K).

Location coordinates

The proposed Te Pēwhairangi (Bay of Islands) Marine Mammal Sanctuary would cover all the areas of the sea enclosed by a straight line running from 174° 8.210' E, 35° 9.383' S to 174° 19.809' E, 35° 10.174' S “the outer boundary”, and then running along the shoreline within that outer boundary on the line of mean high water springs.

Two marine mammal safe zones are proposed with the these outward facing boundaries in the sea area:

  • The first zone being between Motuarohia Island (Roberton Island) and Moturua Island, enclosed to the north by a straight line running from 174° 9.608' E, 35° 13.661' S to 174° 10.736' E, 35° 13.382' S and enclosed to the south by a straight line running from 174° 10.672' E, 35° 14.177' S to 174° 11.617' E, 35° 13.960' S
  • The second zone being sea area between Tapeka Point and Whangaiwahine Point enclosed to the South by a straight line running from 174° 7.390' E, 35° 14.498' S and 174° 11.237' E, 35° 14.904' S.

Proposed restrictions

The proposed restrictions are to provide better protection for all marine mammals in Te Pēwhairangi (Bay of Islands), including bottlenose dolphins. The following restrictions are proposed within the sanctuary:

  • Prohibition on being in the water, such as swimming, within a 400 metres distance of marine mammals within the boundaries of the marine mammal sanctuary (MMS).
  • Maintain a vessel distance of 400 metres from any marine mammal present within the boundaries of the marine mammal sanctuary. If your vessel is not in compliance with this requirement, you’re required to take all reasonable measures to stop and allow the marine mammals to pass to 400 metres away. For example, you become aware that there are marine mammals within 400 metres of your vessel.
  • Speed for all vessels restricted to 5 knots at all times in the two marine mammal safe zones.

Some exemptions apply. See the NZ Gazette notice below.

The proposed sanctuary builds on the existing restrictions on the interactions with marine mammals.

Existing restrictions in the Bay of Islands.

We’re also proposing a review of the MMS, including the impact and effectiveness of restrictions and prohibitions, be performed 3 years after any MMS is declared.

NZ Gazette notice

View the NZ Gazette notice for the proposed sanctuary.

Consultation and suppporting information document

The public consultation document ‘A proposal to establish a marine mammal sanctuary in Te Pēwhairangi (Bay of Islands)’ includes more information about:

  • the problem
  • the proposal, and
  • next steps and how to make a submission.

Download the consultation document (PDF, 2,270K)

View the consultation document as a webpage.

Supporting information document

The supporting information document ‘Supporting information on Te Pēwhairangi (Bay of Islands) marine mammal sanctuary proposal’ includes more information about:

  • background on development of the MMS
  • the legislative regime for a MMS
  • Treaty of Waitangi and the special relationship between the Crown and Māori and
  • impact assessment of the proposed MMS.

Download the supporting information document (PDF, 3,740K)

View supporting information document as webpage.

Whānau, hapū or iwi considerations

Ngā Hapū o te Pēwhairangi (Hapū from the Bay of Islands) representatives and Te Papa Atawhai Department of Conservation have co-designed the marine mammal sanctuary proposal through a joint hapū-Te Papa Atawhai project team.

When considering the proposal, the Minister of Conservation will have particular regard to the views of whānau, hapū and iwi who exercise kaitiakitanga in part of the common marine and coastal area subject to the MMS. This process comes from te Takutai Moana Act 2011.

What happens next

Following the public submissions period which closed at 5 pm 18 May 2021:

  1. The Minister of Conservation will consider all submissions received in the consultation period. The Minister will also give particular regard to the views of whānau, hapū and iwi that exercise kaitiakitanga in the proposed sanctuary.
  2. The Minister of Conservation will make a decision on the proposal in accordance with relevant statutory considerations which include the purpose of the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978. Any decision to declare a marine mammal sanctuary would also need the consent of the Minister of Energy and Resources, Minister of Transport and Minister of Oceans and Fisheries.
  3. If the Minister of Conservation decides to proceed the proposed sanctuary it will be notified in the New Zealand Gazette.


If you have any questions contact us.


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