Fur seal pups
Image: John Barkla


The New Zealand government is committed to protecting our valuable marine biodiversity. Work is underway to establish a network of Marine Protected Areas on the south-east coast of the South Island – from Timaru to Waipapa Point.

In February 2018, after nearly four years of work, the South-East Marine Protection Forum (the Forum) provided a recommendations report to the Minister of Conservation and the Minister of Fisheries with two network options for them to consider.

In March 2019, Ministers announced their decisions and outlined the statutory processes that will be followed. 

Media release 11 May 2019

Consultation on south-east South Island marine protected areas

Public consultation on proposals to establish a network of marine reserves and marine protected areas along the south-east South Island recommenced on 3 June 2020 and closed on 3 August 2020.

More information on the consultation process.

Media release 3 June 2020.

    The proposed network

    The Minister of Conservation and Minister of Fisheries have agreed to progress Network 1 as set out in the Forum’s recommendations report because it best meets the objectives of the Marine Protected Areas Policy (PDF, 809K).

    Ministers believe this option will create the best protection for important habitats found in the South Island’s south-eastern coastal area including foraging areas for marine mammals, birds, fish and invertebrates.

    DOC and Fisheries New Zealand will now work to progress the proposed network under the Fisheries Act (1996) and the Marine Reserves Act (1971).

    The Marine Reserves Act requires public notification of an application for an Order in Council (OIC) to declare a marine reserve. The Department of Conservation will prepare the application for an OIC based on the Forum’s Recommendations Report. The Fisheries Act requires public consultation as part of its process.

    DOC and Fisheries New Zealand will undertake consultation with tangata whenua, stakeholders and the public.

    Agencies will also continue to work with Ngāi Tahu to explore their aspirations for establishing and managing Marine Protected Areas in the region. This includes what co-management of the proposed Marine Protected Areas will look like.

    What's next

    The next step towards establishing a network of marine protected areas on the South Island’s southeast coast is public consultation.

    While the South-East Marine Protection Forum consulted widely before making its recommendations, the public has not been consulted on the network in its current form.

    Ministers want to ensure they have a good understanding of public perspectives on the proposed network before making a final decision.

    With Fisheries New Zealand, we are currently progressing engagement with our Treaty partner, Ngāi Tahu, to ensure their views inform ministerial decision making. A joint consultation document is also being prepared. The document provides a summary of the work to date and details of all proposed protection measures, which were recommended as network 1 by the forum in 2018.

    Due to the complexity of the proposed network and the requirements of the Marine Reserves Act around public notification, we expect to begin formal consultation in early 2020. After the 2 month consultation period, DOC and Fisheries New Zealand will provide advice to their Ministers about the outcomes of the consultation. We then expect Ministers to make decisions about progressing the proposed network.

    Advice to Ministers

    DOC and Fisheries New Zealand had a role to help Ministers understand the implications of the two recommendations put forward by the Forum, and therefore make well-informed decisions.

    The following documents were provided to Ministers:

    DOC-only advice to Minister of Conservation:

    Fisheries New Zealand-only advice to Minister of Fisheries:

    Note that some information is currently withheld from these documents under the Official Information Act due to:

    • personal contact details of officials, under section 9(2)(a) – to protect the privacy of natural persons, including deceased people
    • advice still under consideration, section 9(2)(f)(iv) – to maintain the current constitutional conventions protecting the confidentiality of advice tendered by Ministers and officials.

    Lessons learned report

    An independent lessons learned analysis of the South-East Marine Protection Forum process was commissioned by DOC and undertaken by the Caravel Group. The analysis considered the positive and negative aspects of governing, planning, controlling and delivering the project. The report incorporates feedback from the Forum members, the project Governance Group, and the SEMPF project team. It does not, and wasn’t intended to, make any judgements on the outcome of the SEMP Forum.

    The report’s authors found that overall the Forum process held together well; that all participants had good intent to meet the objectives, and the Forum Chair did a great job bringing differing views together, aiming for consensus. It also identified a number of elements that could be improved, including more clearly defined marine policy and agency roles, and more time should have been spent planning and providing information before the forum began its work.

    Lessons learned from this report will be incredibly helpful in future work to design improved and more streamlined processes for protecting our significant marine areas.

    Lessons learned report (PDF, 1,054K)

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