Fisheries Infosite


Marine Protected Areas

New Zealand has a particularly rich and complex seascape, making it a world hotspot for marine biodiversity. Because the country is so isolated, a particularly high proportion of species are found only here.

The government is setting up a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to protect examples of our different marine habitats and ecosystems, as well as those that are outstanding or rare. Like our land-based Protected Natural Areas network, this will make sure some of our biological wealth in the seas is "banked" as an investment for future generations.

Some areas are already protected by marine reserves, Fisheries Act closures, and cable protection zones. These have each been set up to achieve slightly different things, and so are not integrated in any structured way.

PDF icon.  Download Marine Protected Areas brochure (PDF 173KB)

Marine Protected Areas - Frequently Asked Questions

MPA Protection Standard and Classification System

The Ministry of Fisheries and Department of Conservation have been working together to develop a MPA Protection Standard and Classification System.

PDF icon.  MPA Classification, Protection Standard & Implementation Guidelines(PDF 2.9MB)

MPA Policy and Implementation Plan

The Government has reasserted its commitment to a structured and focused approach to protecting marine habitats and ecosystems.

The MPA process will make sure that future marine protection is properly planned and integrated. We will decide what areas need protecting in our coastal waters (out to 12 nautical miles) on a region-by-region basis, and make decisions about protection in our EEZ at a national level.

The process is being run jointly by the Ministry of Fisheries and the Department of Conservation, and will involve other government departments, local government, marine users, tangata whenua, and groups with an interest in the marine environment.

For the short term, the focus of marine protection will be on the Territorial Sea (from the coast to the 12-mile limit), where the problems are more immediate and most acute – where the risks to marine biodiversity are greatest and where the highest economic, social and cultural values are found.

The government will not implement the MPA policy in offshore areas until after 2012. However, it will continue with research and planning projects that will inform these decisions.

PDF icon.  Download Marine Protected Areas - Policy & Implementation Plan(PDF 821KB)

How will the MPA network be developed?

Planning and developing New Zealand’s Marine Protected Areas network will involve a range of central and local government agencies and marine users, tangata whenua, and those with an interest in the marine environment.

The resulting network will be comprehensive, by protecting both representative areas and areas that are outstanding or rare. A range of management tools will be used, including marine reserves, Fisheries Act tools, and tools under the Resource Management Act.

There are four key parts to this process:

1. Identifying areas based on science

The first involves classifying New Zealand’s nearshore and offshore habitats and ecosytems.

From this, we can identify the range of habitats and ecosystems that should be represented, as well as special places that are considered outstanding or rare.

Initially, New Zealand waters will be divided into broad ‘Biogeographic Regions’, each of which share a common range of habitats and environmental factors.

Within these, representative habitat types and ecosystems will be identified, as well as ones that are outstanding or rare. An ‘expert panel’ of marine scientists has been convened to suggest how we do this.

2. Setting a suitable level of protection

To qualify as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), sites must be under a level of protection that allows their habitats and ecosystems to remain at (or recover to) a healthy state.

For some offshore MPAs, a suitable level of protection may just involve addressing effects like fishing and mineral exploration; but for some nearshore areas, land-based effects like unnatural levels of sedimentation and pollution may also need to be addressed. The level of protection needed will also take into account how well a habitat or ecosystem is able to recover from natural or human induced impacts.

This means that while the Protection Standard will be the same for MPAs everywhere, the regulatory and legislative tools needed to achieve this will vary. Therefore, a range of government agencies will be involved in planning New Zealand’s MPA network.

3. Deciding what new areas we need

The habitat and ecosystem types currently protected by marine reserves and other coastal and marine management tools will be compared against the MPA Protection Standard. If they meet it, those areas will become part of the MPA network. This list of MPAs will be compared against the range of habitats and ecosystems identified by the classification process, and the gaps in the network identified.

The government’s priorities in filling these gaps will be to protect under-represented habitats and ecosystems, and outstanding, rare, distinctive, or nationally or internationally important habitats or ecosystems. Priorities will also be influenced by the threats posed to under-represented habitats or ecosystems.

It is envisaged that the rollout of MPA planning will largely be based around those Biogeographic Regions with the biggest ‘gaps’.

4. Choosing new MPAs

The MPA network needs to be established in a way that minimises the impacts on existing users of the marine environment and on Treaty settlement obligations. This means involving marine users, tangata whenua, and communities in the process.

All planning for offshore MPAs will involve government agencies working with tangata whenua and stakeholders at a national level, while planning for nearshore MPAs will happen at a regional level.

Special planning groups will be convened for this purpose, and will include representatives of tangata whenua, relevant marine user groups, and environmental interests.

These groups will be given the range of habitat and ecosystem types to be protected in their region of interest, and asked to suggest MPA locations and management tools that reduce the impacts on existing users and Treaty obligations yet still meet the MPA Protection Standard.

The government wants at least one example of each habitat or ecosystem type to be protected by the highest level of protection possible – a marine reserve.

Contact us about this page    Last updated 26/01/2017