Seabed Survey Enhances Continental Shelf Sub.
SEABED SURVEY ENHANCES CONTINENTAL SHELF SUBMISSION
EMBARGOED UNTIL 3PM, THURSDAY 20 JANUARY, 2000
Preparations for New Zealand's Continental Shelf submission to the United Nations received a significant boost after the results of a recent seabed survey commissioned by Land Information New Zealand
The results of the NIWA research vessel RV Tangaroa's survey of the North Western region of the Continental Shelf provided key information about sediment thickness and the shape of the seafloor- two critical factors in determining the precise extent of New Zealand's legal continental shelf boundary.
Marine surveys such as the Tangaroa survey underpin New Zealand's submission to the UN says Land Information New Zealand's (LINZ) Project Leader for the New Zealand Continental Shelf Project, Jerome Sheppard.
"New Zealand's submission is about drawing the boundary around the sovereign rights we exercise over the sea bed extending beyond the current 200 nautical mile limit or Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The data collected on the recent voyage by the Tangaroa will assist us in presenting a very accurate case to the UN."
Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the UN requires countries to lodge submissions defining their outer shelf limits. The Tangaroa gathered data to help define those limits.
LINZ contracted scientific advisers from NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) and GNS (Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences) to provide expert help and analysis.
The mission clearly demonstrated that New Zealand has the personnel, equipment and scientific expertise to carry out the project, Jerome Sheppard says.
"Extensive research and planning before the mission meant that the crew knew exactly what was needed at a multitude of locations. NIWA and GNS are to be congratulated for their efforts. The project was achieved on time and under budget and high quality scientific information was received."
The survey of the North Western region is part of a $44 million Government funded programme over seven years to collect data for New Zealand's Continental Shelf submission. LINZ initially commissioned a desktop study to collate and examine all relevant data and identify areas where data was lacking relating to New Zealand's submission. That study has been completed and independently reviewed by an international panel of experts.
New Zealand has until 2006 to lodge its Continental Shelf submission. A significant portion of the remaining marine surveys will take place in the next two years.
For further information please contact:
Jerome Sheppard PH: 04 460 0110
Project Leader New Zealand Continental Shelf Project Land Information New Zealand jsheppardlinz.govt.nz Private Box 5501 WELLINGTON
John Callan PH: 04 570 1444 Communications Coordinator
j.callangns.cri.nz Institute of Geological and Nuclear Scientists PO Box 30 368 LOWER HUTT Media liaison: Michael Mead PH: 04 498 3516 Communications Adviser mmeadlinz.govt.nz Land Information New Zealand Private Box 5501 Wellington
Questions and Answers about the Continental Shelf
1. What is the Continental Shelf? New Zealand's land mass extends further than what you can see on the surface. Underwater, our Continental Shelf stretches right out to our 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and beyond. The underwater land (seabed and below) of a coastal State from the shore to the border between the continent and the deep ocean floor is known as the Continental Shelf and Slope. Just like the topography of land above the water, the seascape is not flat, with its own mountains and valleys, making it difficult at times to define the boundary between the Continental Shelf and Slope and the deep ocean floor.
2. What's our submission all about? Following New Zealand ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in July 1996, NZ has until August 2006 to lodge its submission to define the outer edge of its legal Continental Shelf beyond the 200 nautical miles (M) limit or Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Under UNCLOS New Zealand negotiated extensive sovereign rights in perpetuity over the living and non- living resources of the seabed and subsoil of the Continental Shelf outside the 200 M limit. New Zealand has an obligation to lodge a submission defining the geographical extent of these rights.
3. What benefits are there? The Crown currently receives over a hundred million dollars per annum from royalties and energy levies relating to the seabed resources within the EEZ. Besides the petroleum resources, there are other rich mineral resources. There are the benefits of greater control of exploration and extraction activities on the seabed to ensure sustainability: control over the laying of communication cables; defence related control; scientific benefits (as it is new information being gathered it will benefit scientific programmes such as tectonic studies of the history of shifting plate boundaries, oceanographic circulation patterns affected by plate boundaries, paleoclimate -the climate at a given time in the past- and climate change information); there is also the benefit that New Zealand organisations will be part of the project, returning money back to the economy. 4. Are fishing rights affected? The extent of our sovereign rights over fisheries is confined to the 200M EEZ and is unaffected by this exercise.
5. What is the process for defining our Continental Shelf limits? UNCLOS has defined the technical criteria to enable coastal states to define the outer limits of their continental shelf beyond 200M. The UN will only accept submissions which have defined outer limits. Where there are overlapping claims between countries, common boundaries may be negotiated bilaterally. Negotiations with Australia on overlapping areas are expected to be completed by 2003. We may also need to come to agreement about potential overlapping areas with New Caledonia, Tonga and Fiji.
6. How are our sovereign rights recognized? The sovereign rights exercised by New Zealand on the Continental Shelf have been maintained for many years and are secure under UNCLOS.
7. What will we do with it once the UN process has been completed? Incorporate it within our present EEZ management framework.
8. How is LINZ involved? LINZ is responsible for the management and delivery of the NZ Continental Shelf survey programme, including the presentation system1, by 20062.
9. Who's presenting our submission to the UN? The Ministry Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) is the lead agency for all international boundary negotiations and for the presentation of New Zealand's Continental Shelf submission to the UN Commission by 2006.
10. Which other organisations are involved? * The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) for scientific advice * The Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences for scientific advice and technical support;
* The Ministry of Commerce is the agency responsible for the long- term management and storage of the Continental Shelf Project related data;
* Other Government agencies such as the Treasury and the State Services Commission
* The Navy and NIWA as potential surveying contractors; and
* A number of national and international private sector companies who successfully contract for the survey work available.
* International experts in maritime boundaries who may be contracted to assist LINZ and MFAT with their respective responsibilities for NZ's submission.
11. Which other countries are making submissions? All other coastal States that have ratified UNCLOS and can establish that their Continental Shelf extends beyond their 200 mile limit. Our largest neighbour Australia has until 2004 to submit their case to the UN.
1 The system for presenting the data to the UN Commission, likely to be a form of GIS (Geographical Information System-computer maps.) but will also include NZ's hydrographic charts.
2 Negotiations with Australia are intended to be settled by 2003.