Have your say on a proposal to establish a marine mammal sanctuary in Te Pēwhairangi (Bay of Islands). Submissions closed 5 pm 18 May 2021.

Submissions closed 5 pm 18 May 2021.

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The Acting Minister of Conservation is proposing to declare a marine mammal sanctuary (MMS) in Te Pēwhairangi (Bay of Islands). This new MMS is proposed under section 22 of the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978.

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.

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.

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 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.

If you exercise kaitiakitanga in this area

Any whānau, hapū or iwi who consider they exercise kaitiakitanga in a part of the common marine and coastal area may advise the Director-General accordingly. You can also provide your views within the consultation period. This comes from te Takutai Moana Act 2011.

Kaitiakitanga under the Takutai Moana Act 2011 means “the exercise of guardianship by the tangata whenua of an area in accordance with tikanga Māori in relation to natural and physical resources, and includes the ethic of stewardship.”

The Acting Minister of Conservation must have particular regard to the views of those whānau, hapū and iwi in considering the proposal.

Drop-in sessions to ask questions

A series of drop-in sessions are being held in Te Pēwhairangi (Bay of Islands) area:

  • Wednesday 21 April 2021 – 5 pm to 7 pm at the Paihia War Memorial Hall, Paihia
  • Friday 30 April 2021 – 10 am to 2 pm at the Procter Library, Kerikeri
  • Saturday 1 May 2021 – 10 am to 1 pm at the Paihia War Memorial Hall, Paihia
  • Saturday 1 May 2021 – 2 pm to 4 pm in Russell, Haratu Kororareka Marae

How to make submissions

Submissions closed 5 pm 18 May 2021.

There are three ways you can make a submission:

  • online
  • using email, or
  • written submission.

Any submission you make will become public information. This means that anyone can ask for copies of all submissions under the Official Information Act 1982.

The Official Information Act states that we must make information available unless there is a good reason for withholding it and provides a list of such reasons in sections 6, 9 and 18. If you think there is a good reason to withhold specific information, please state this in your submission. A good reason may include commercial confidentiality or that it is personal information.

Any decision that is made by DOC to withhold information can be reviewed by the Ombudsman, who may require the information to be released.

Online submissions

Online submission for proposal.

Email and written submissions

1. Prepare your submission

Your submission should include your:

  • name
  • organisation if you’re submitting on behalf of an organisation
  • contact details and preferences
  • comments on the proposal.

You can provide any feedback on the proposed marine mammal sanctuary you would like. However, answering the following questions may assist in making your submission:

  • Do you support or oppose the proposed marine mammal sanctuary? If so, why, or why not?
  • Do you believe the proposal should be changed or amended? If so, what changes would you propose, and why?
  • Do you agree with how we have characterised the problem, objectives, and impacts? If not, how would you change it?

2. Send us your submission


Post or in person:
Proposed Te Pēwhairangi (Bay of Islands) marine mammal sanctuary
Department of Conservation
34 Landing Road
Kerikeri 0230

What happens next

After submissions close 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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