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Govt Announces Big Boost To Marine Protection

  • First marine reserves in south-eastern South Island
  • Six new marine reserves increase mainland reserves by 67 per cent
  • Protects habitats of hoiho/yellow-eyed penguin, toroa/northern royal albatross, rāpoka/New Zealand sea lion, as well as brittle stars, squat lobster, kōura, shrimps, crabs, sponges, sea squirts, reef fishes and many others
  • Builds on Govt’s record of ocean protection

The Labour Government is continuing to deliver on its promise to protect New Zealand’s oceans, with the announcement today of six new marine reserves between Oamaru and The Catlins.

Conservation Minister Willow-Jean Prime and Oceans and Fisheries Minister Rachel Brooking joined Kāi Tahu representatives in Dunedin today to mark the creation of the first marine reserves in the south-east South Island.

“Protecting our oceans and their biodiversity for future generations is important to this Government,” Willow-Jean Prime said.

“In August we announced our plans to protect the Hauraki Gulf. Today, we’re announcing six new marine reserves in the South Island.

“The creation of these new reserves increases the area in marine reserves around mainland New Zealand by more than two thirds.

“This spectacular coastline from Oamaru to Southland is home to some of our most endangered species, like hoiho/yellow-eyed penguin, toroa/northern royal albatross and rāpoka/New Zealand sea lion.

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“It includes estuarine and tidal lagoons, rocky reefs, offshore canyons, giant kelp forests and deepwater bryozoan or lace coral thickets, and an array of marine life that were under pressure from human activity.

“Local communities have worked hard on this for more than a decade and it is a huge pleasure to be able to deliver on it for them.”

Willow-Jean Prime said close engagement with mana whenua had been important.

“I acknowledge Kāi Tahu – as kaitiaki for this spectacular coast – for their engagement in the shaping of the new marine reserves.

“Provisions have been made for Kāi Tahu to continue to access the marine reserve areas for practices that enhance their mātauraka Māori (traditional knowledge) and retrieve koiwi tākata (ancestral remains), artefacts and marine mammal remains.

“Kāi Tahu will work in partnership with the Department of Conservation to manage the marine reserves once they are in place.”

Rachel Brooking said the six marine reserves were the first step in creating a network of marine protection in the area, and build on the Government’s track record of protecting the oceans.

“From tightening the rules to around fish being discarded at sea and putting cameras on commercial fishing vessels, to stopping bottom trawling the vast bulk of the Hauraki Gulf, this is a Government that understands you can’t have a successful commercial fishing industry in an unhealthy ocean,” Rachel Brooking said

As well as the six marine reserves announced today, the Government is looking at using fisheries management regulations to protect a further five areas, along with a proposed kelp protection area. Rachel Brooking said 90 per cent of more than 4,000 submissions had shown there is broad backing for the proposed network.

The Government has also created nine new mātaitai reserves this year, bringing the total number to 66.


The new marine reserves, from north to south:

· Waitaki Marine Reserve, 101 km2

· Te Umu Kōau Marine Reserve, 98 km2

· Papanui Marine Reserve, 168 km2

· Ōrau Marine Reserve, 29 km2

· Ōkaihae Marine Reserve, 5 km2

  • Hākinikini Marine Reserve, 6 km2

The new marine reserves will come into force following an Order in Council and gazettal process, likely to be completed by mid-2024.

New Zealand has 44 marine reserves (increasing to 50 with the six new reserves) protecting outstanding examples of diverse, unique or typical marine habitats and species.

Marine reserves (like those announced today) allow for activities such as boating, snorkelling and diving but do not allow any taking of seafood. The other areas the Government is considering are “type two”, which provide sufficient protection of habitats and ecosystems for areas to be considered Marine Protection Areas but can allow for some taking of seafood. Examples include the Fiordland Marine Management Area, Mimiwhangata Marine Park and mātaitai reserves (recognising traditional Māori fishing grounds that are important for customary food gathering).

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