Protection of New Zealand’s marine environment from pollution is provided by regulations, standards, legislation and international conventions. This is part of the global framework for combating marine pollution.
This page provides an overview of the marine environment protections covering New Zealand. For the specific requirements that apply to vessels, installations and ports, please use the link below.
New Zealand’s marine environment protection legislation is provided by the Resource Management Act, the Maritime Transport Act 1994 and the Exclusive Economic Zone and Extended Continental Shelf Act. There are associated coastal plans, marine protection rules and regulations under these three acts that provide much of the detail on marine environment protection legislation.
Resource Management Act [New Zealand Parliamentary Counsel Office]
Maritime Transport Act 1994 [New Zealand Parliamentary Counsel Office]
Resource Management (Marine Pollution) Regulations [New Zealand Parliamentary Counsel Office]
The overarching goal of the rules is to limit the input of harmful substances into the sea, from for example:
Maritime New Zealand monitors and enforces compliance of ships with marine protection legislation beyond the New Zealand territorial sea. Visiting foreign ships must also meet the international standards adopted by New Zealand. Maritime New Zealand also assesses applications for dumping of wastes on the high seas by New Zealand flagged vessels.
The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) manages environmental effects from offshore minerals activities that take place over the New Zealand exclusive economic zone or extended continental shelf. The EPA also regulates the dumping of waste at sea within these zones.
Within 12 miles from shore (the New Zealand territorial sea), discharges from ships and offshore installations are regulated by the Resource Management Act 1991 and regional coastal plans and marine pollution regulations made under this Act. Monitoring and enforcement is carried out by regional councils. Councils also consider any applications for permits for dumping of waste at sea within this zone.
Biosecurity New Zealand, under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, administers the Biosecurity Act. This act sets out the requirements for the discharge in New Zealand waters of ships’ ballast water from overseas.
Biosecurity Act 1993 [New Zealand Parliamentary Counsel Office]
The key international marine environment protection conventions recognised in New Zealand law are as follows.
This is the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 relating thereto (known as MARPOL 73/78).
This convention has technical annexes regulating the following matters:
New Zealand law gives effect to annex I, II, III, and V and thus regulates discharges of oil, chemicals, marine pollutants (in packaged form), and garbage. Annex IV is given effect for ships in New Zealand that are leaving for and coming from the Antarctic sea area only.
There is no international convention comprehensively regulating the environmental standards of offshore installations. While some MARPOL controls apply to installation management of oily waste from machinery spaces and garbage, the more significant waste streams are left to national regulation. Examples of these include: the discharge of production water, offshore processing drainage and displacement water. The New Zealand controls for these types of discharge are in line with international good practice.
Learn more about MARPOL [International Maritime Organization]
The 1996 Protocol refers to the Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, 1972 (known as the London Protocol)
This convention prohibits the dumping of all waste except for a restricted group of materials and then only when it can be established that there are no practical opportunities for reuse or recycling, and that the effects of dumping on the marine environment will be minor.
Wastes under the protocol comprise:
In New Zealand jurisdiction for assessing applications for dumping of wastes at sea is separated across three levels of regulators. The regulator is as follows:
Learn more about the 1996 Protocol [International Maritime Organization]
The International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation 1990 (OPRC) requires parties to take all appropriate measures to prepare for and respond to an oil pollution incident.
As a party to OPRC, New Zealand is required to: