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3.3 Economic value of marine protected areas

Sustainably managing our oceans means allowing for the use and development of our marine resources, as well as protecting them. We are already doing this on land, for example, by allowing conservation areas under the Conservation Act to be located in the same place as permitted areas under the Crown Minerals Act 1991.

MPAs will provide economic benefits to New Zealand, including supporting productive fisheries (eg, through protecting spawning and nursery habitats), increasing and enhancing tourism activities, and sustaining food harvesting.

For example, recreational fishing generates economic spin-offs for tourism operators, retailers and service industries. Recreational fishing parks will enhance these benefits by establishing areas where fisheries can be managed solely for non-commercial fishing, the quality of the fishing experience can be improved, and participation in fishing can be actively encouraged. In this way, recreational fishing parks will support the realisation of better value from New Zealand’s coastal fisheries.

The growing marine tourism sector also generates significant economic revenue for New Zealand:

  • About 375,000 people visited the Leigh Marine Reserve (Cape Rodney–Okakari Point) in North Auckland in 2007.
  • The Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve has been rated by aquatic legend Jacques Cousteau as one of the top 10 dive spots in the world. A single commercial diving operator takes about 12,000 visitors there each year, adding significant value to the Northland economy.

Recognising economic interests

In some areas, putting protection in place may affect existing and future uses of the marine environment. The new process for establishing MPAs will ensure effects on users are minimised, where this can be done without compromising necessary environmental protection. Where an area of the territorial sea has been suggested for marine protection, the economic potential of the area will be given full consideration. An independent assessment of the economic impact of a proposed MPA will be required as part of the decision-making process.

The Government recognises that establishing MPAs may affect some existing property and use rights in the marine environment. The following methods are proposed to ensure the effects on those rights are mitigated or minimised.


Commercial fishing in New Zealand is managed through the Quota Management System, which enables sustainable economic value to be gained from fisheries resources.

The current Marine Reserves Act and the Marine Mammals Protection Act do not make any provision for compensation when a marine reserve or sanctuary is established. The Fisheries Act also makes it clear that the Crown is not liable to pay compensation where measures are taken for sustainability, which includes biodiversity protection.

The Government is proposing a different approach for the establishment of recreational fishing parks, the purpose of which is to enhance the recreational fishing experience by reducing commercial fishing effort in the area. The effect on commercial fishing may be similar to a situation where a marine farm is established and impacts the rights of quota holders to the point where compensation may be justified.

Compensation will not be paid to quota owners in relation to the establishment of seabed reserves, species-specific sanctuaries, or marine reserves because they are measures taken for the purpose of ensuring sustainability.

All fishing activities will continue to be managed under the Fisheries Act. The integrity of rights and interests recognised under the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011 and existing arrangements for non-commercial customary fishing will be fully recognised and maintained.

Oil, gas and minerals

Increasing the economic value of the oil, gas and mineral mining industries is one important element of the Government’s Business Growth Agenda. Permits for oil, gas and mineral mining can be granted for prospecting, exploration and mining under the Crown Minerals Act.[6]

To provide certainty to the oil, gas and mineral mining industries, it is proposed that no category of MPA can be established in areas where there are petroleum or mineral mining, prospecting or exploration permits under the Crown Minerals Act for the life of the permit, unless the permit holder agrees. This recognises the significant and ongoing investment made by permit holders undertaking petroleum or mineral mining, prospecting or exploration activities in a particular area.

The proposed approach gives certainty to industry without unnecessarily impeding progress in developing New Zealand’s network of MPAs.


  1. Does the approach take account of the way the fishing sector operates? Why/why not?
  2. Does the approach take account of the way the oil, gas and minerals sector operates? Why/why not?
  3. Are there other economic interests that haven’t been covered?
  4. Is the new MPA Act likely to have the intended effect that decisions about environmental protection and economic growth are made in an integrated way (objective 2)? Why/why not?