Poor Knight's Islands Marine Reserve

Image: Vincent Zintzen | ©


A partnership between DOC and Air New Zealand to grow the science and knowledge of our marine ecosystems.

In this section

DOC is partnered with Air New Zealand on certain marine projects

New Zealand’s marine environment is fascinating, diverse and unique – many of our species are found nowhere else. It is precious to Māori and all New Zealanders – and we have responsibilities as kaitiaki (guardians). 

The data gathered at sentinel sites will increase our knowledge of the broader marine environment and inform policies and management decisions to improve the health of our oceans and coasts. 

The Marine Sentinel Sites programme will provide an indication of how the sentinel sites are responding to large scale pressures like climate change. This knowledge will inform what is happening (or may happen) in the wider marine environment.

We need to work together

Although new Zealand’s marine environment is large, the marine research community is small. Research is often challenging and time-consuming. Less than 1% of our marine environment has been surveyed.

Collaboration at all levels is essential to the success of this programme. DOC is working with others to identify common priorities and undertake research at sentinel sites. Researchers, iwi and local communities are all encouraged to get involved and contribute. This could be helping set the direction of a research project or collecting data for example.

A partnership with Air New Zealand

The Marine Sentinel Sites programme is a partnership between DOC and Air New Zealand. Since 2012, Air New Zealand has supported a number of DOC’s land and marine-based programmes.

Working together, Air New Zealand and DOC are growing the knowledge and science of New Zealand’s marine ecosystems. Together, we are creating new leadership in marine conservation management and science, and equipping communities to protect and care for our coastal ecosystems.

Proposed sentinel sites

There are currently 10 proposed sites. The sites were chosen on the basis of criteria that were developed at an expert workshop, and to ensure they represented the different biogeographic regions around New Zealand. Some bioregions cannot be included as there are either no marine reserves in the region or the existing marine reserves did not meet the criteria.

The proposed sentinel sites are:

  • Cape Rodney-Okakari Point Marine Reserve
  • Long Bay-Okura Marine Reserve
  • Tapuae Marine Reserve
  • Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve
  • Kapiti Marine Reserve
  • Tonga Island Marine Reserve
  • Hikurangi Marine Reserve
  • Akaroa Marine Reserve
  • Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) Marine Reserve
  • Ulva Island-Te Wharawhara Marine Reserve.

Note: this list will be updated if the programme's priorities change or new information becomes available. 

View a map showing location of marine reserves

Focus for 2018 and 2019

Initial work is focussed on Kapiti and Long Bay-Okura Marine Reserves. These sites were chosen because of their potential for collaborative research and the issues that are occurring in their location.

Purpose and aims of the programme

The purpose of the programme is to create a national network of sentinel sites as centres of collaborative research and monitoring. Its aims are to:

  • build knowledge and understanding of New Zealand’s marine biodiversity and demonstrate the value of marine protected areas
  • understand pressures and trends facing marine ecosystems and how they are responding to environmental changes
  • measure ecological integrity (health) of the marine environment
  • highlight suitable management interventions so that New Zealand’s marine leaders and the community are better able to respond
  • enhance science capacity and New Zealand’s role as a global leader in marine conservation.
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