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6.1 Transitioning existing marine protected areas

New Zealand already has tools to protect the marine environment, including marine reserves and marine parks. The first step in implementing this proposal will be to ensure these tools are incorporated into the new MPA Act.

As far as possible, the outcomes of collaborative processes that are already in progress will be transitioned into the new MPA Act. The Government will work with communities to ensure the best outcomes for areas as they transition to the new regime.

The proposed transition process for each of the four categories in the new MPA Act is outlined below.

Marine reserves

New Zealand has 44 marine reserves, established either through the Marine Reserves Act or special legislation. It is proposed that all 44 marine reserves will transition into the new MPA Act. No change will occur to the levels of protection afforded to any marine reserve or to existing marine reserve advisory committees. Any specific provisions already in place will remain. For example, no change will occur to the review of the Moutere Ihupuku/Campbell Island Marine Reserve required under the Subantarctic Islands Marine Reserves Act 2014.

Species-specific sanctuaries

Several existing tools provide protection to specific marine species in certain areas of the territorial sea. All of these will transition into the proposed MPA Act and will become species-specific sanctuaries, including:

  • all marine mammal sanctuaries established under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978
  • the whale sanctuary and New Zealand fur seal sanctuary established under the Kaikōura (Te Tai o Marokura) Marine Management Act 2014
  • some species in some places protected under the Wildlife Act 1953.

Varying levels of protection and use will occur within species-specific sanctuaries, depending on the species in question, spatial considerations and existing management regimes. For example, within the West Coast North Island Marine Mammal Sanctuary, restrictions on fishing and mining differ across the sanctuary. Restrictions such as these will remain, but any future changes to the regime will be made under the new MPA Act. Fishing activities will continue to be managed under the Fisheries Act 1996.

Seabed reserves

At present, no tool exists that is equivalent to seabed reserves, but the Fisheries Act 1996 provides limited protection for specific areas of the seabed in the territorial sea and beyond. This includes benthic protection areas and seamount closures, which prohibit bottom trawling and dredging fishing methods. When these areas were created they were only assessed for their fisheries-related benefits.

Under the new MPA Act, benthic protection areas within the territorial sea or parts of them could be assessed as candidates for transition to seabed reserves. Whether an area transitions to the new MPA Act will depend on whether it meets the purpose of the category.

It is proposed that any area that does not become a seabed reserve will continue to be managed under the Fisheries Act.

Recreational fishing parks

Existing recreational fishing areas will need to be transitioned into the new MPA Act. Mimiwhangata Marine Park and Sugar Loaf Islands Marine Protected Area both provide biodiversity protection and recreational fishing opportunities, while generally excluding commercial fishing activities. No changes are proposed to existing provisions, and both areas will be recognised as recreational fishing parks. Other existing areas that prohibit or limit commercial fishing activities may also be transitioned into the MPA Act as recreational fishing parks once they have been assessed.

Customary management areas

Several community-based forums have been established around New Zealand to guide planning processes in the local marine environment (eg, Fiordland, Kaikōura, and South-East Otago). These forums have developed integrated management packages that provide for the protection of the marine environment and its sustainable use through a variety of legislative instruments, including customary management areas (taiapure–local fisheries and mātaitai reserves).

Although the proposed MPA Act will reduce the need for multiple legislative instruments to achieve protection objectives in some cases, customary management areas will remain the most appropriate way of achieving protection objectives. The proposed MPA Act will therefore enable the use of customary management areas alongside the proposed MPA categories to create integrated management packages.

Other area-based restrictions

Several other marine management tools are in place in New Zealand, including fisheries closures and cable protection zones. These restrictions are often established for the purpose of protecting infrastructure but may have a protective effect. Where these tools do not clearly align with the four categories proposed under the new MPA Act, they will be retained under their existing legislation.


  1. Do you agree with the proposed arrangements for transitioning existing MPAs? If not, what are your concerns?
  2. Do you agree that customary management areas should be able to be used alongside the proposed MPA Act to create integrated management packages? If not, what are your concerns?
  3. What would be required to ensure the integrity of current protected areas is maintained while achieving the objectives of the new MPA Act (section 3.1)?