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Section 2: The need for a new approach to marine protection

The Government wants New Zealand’s marine management system to achieve an appropriate balance between protecting our marine environment and maximising commercial, recreational and cultural opportunities now and in the future.[2] The Government believes this balance is achieved when important representative ecosystems are identified and protected, and the sustainable management of our resources for recreational, cultural or economic benefits is facilitated and optimised.

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are a tool to protect the marine and coastal environment. They protect different marine habitats and ecosystems and are most effective when they form a representative and adaptable network.[3] Some MPAs perform various functions in addition to protection, such as providing for tourism, recreational enjoyment and economic activities. They also allow for a better understanding of the marine environment.

What is a ‘representative network’ of marine protected areas?

A representative network is characterised by the representation of different habitats and ecosystems in New Zealand’s marine environment in one or more MPA. This helps ensure the ability of an MPA network to survive natural catastrophes and major impacts, by replicating each habitat and ecosystem across multiple MPAs within the network. Each MPA in the network should be well managed and of sufficient size and shape to sustain the species and habitats it represents. A well designed and managed MPA network will provide a greater contribution to a healthy marine environment than a collection of individually identified MPAs.


  • [2] See appendix B for a table summarising New Zealand’s existing marine management legislation.
  • [3] New Zealand has committed to establishing a representative network of marine protected areas as a Party to the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity.