The disposal of waste in New Zealand’s waters is managed under both domestic and international legislation. Read below about the regulations that apply, including for burials and disposal of vessels at sea.
The most common types of material that are disposed of are dredge spoil from ports and harbours, and decommissioned vessels.
Waste disposal within the 12 nautical mile limit of New Zealand's territorial waters is regulated by regional councils under the Resource Management Act 1991. It is the Marine Pollution Regulations 1998 made under the Resource Management Act that specifically applies here.
Resource Management Act 1991 [New Zealand Parliamentary Counsel Office]
Resource Management (Marine Pollution) Regulations 1998 [New Zealand Parliamentary Counsel Office]
In 2015 responsibility for regulating disposal of wastes beyond New Zealands territorial waters, but in areas still under our jurisdiction was transferred from Maritime New Zealand to the Environment Protection Authority. Applications for all types of wastes disposal within the Exclusive Economic Zone or Extended Continental Shelf should be directed to the Environment Protection Authority. Information is available on their website:
The Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf [EPA website]
Waste disposal on the high seas (i.e. beyond the extended continental shelf of all countries) is regulated by the country to which the vessel doing the dumping is flagged (registered). In New Zealand waste disposal on the high seas from New Zealand registered vessels is administered by Maritime New Zealand under the Maritime Transport Act 1994 and associated rules. The Act authorises the Director of Maritime New Zealand to issue a permit for the disposal of waste or other matter:
Maritime Transport Act 1994 [New Zealand Parliamentary Counsel Office]
Applications may be considered in accordance with Marine Protection Rule Part 180 , but any such proposals will require a greater level of environmental impact assessment and clear justification why sites within New Zealands jurisdiction cannot be used. Guidance is available in the Advisory Circular:
New Zealand Guidelines for Sea Disposal of Waste [PDF: 192Kb, 88 pages]
There are no fixed fees associated with applications for dumping permits for disposal of wastes on the high seas from a New Zealand flagged vessel. An hourly rate however is applied for staff involved in accordance with the Shipping (Charges) Regulations 2000. Usually this will involve scientific staff or staff at managerial levels, charged at a rate of $235.00 per hour inclusive of GST.
Dumping standards for all jurisdictions (see points 1 and 2 above) in New Zealand are derived from the 1996 Protocol, to which New Zealand is a party. The 1996 Protocol refers to the International Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes or Other Matter, 1972. It is also known as the London Convention.
The global aim of the 1996 Protocol is to:
“Protect and preserve the marine environment from all sources of pollution and take effective measures (according to scientific, technical and economic capabilities), to prevent, reduce and where practicable eliminate pollution caused by dumping or incineration at sea of wastes or other matter.”
A key principle of the 1996 Protocol is the consideration of avoidance, re-use and minimisation of waste sources in order to minimise the amount of material that is required to be dumped at sea. This principle is a well-established requirement of the New Zealand domestic legislation.
The 1996 Protocol embodies the precautionary approach to dumping waste at sea. Rather than setting out the wastes that are NOT allowed to be dumped, the 1996 Protocol defines categories of wastes that MAY be considered for dumping at sea, provided the applicant can demonstrate that no adverse effects will result. All other categories are prohibited from disposal at sea.
Learn more about the 1996 Protocol [International Maritime Organization]
The following wastes or other matter may be considered for dumping, provided that any material capable of creating floating debris or otherwise contributing to pollution of the marine environment has been removed to the maximum extent. Also provided that the material dumped poses no serious obstacle to fishing or navigation.
Wastes or other matter may be considered for dumping:
For disposal of vessels on the high seas applicants are required to demonstrate that no pollutants are on board vessels intended for disposal at sea and that no other viable disposal options are possible.
In addition, applicants needing to tow a vessel to a disposal location must demonstrate that it is 'fit for tow'. This will ordinarily involve the use of an independent surveyor of ships and provision of a passage plan.
Disposal of Vessels at sea - guidance for applicants on towing plans [PDF: 103Kb, 4 pages]
For disposal of vessels within the territorial sea (12nm from land) please contact the relevant regional council. For disposal of vessels within the EEZ and ECS please contact the Environment Protection Authority.
Applications for burial at sea from a New Zealand flagged vessel beyond the extended continental shelf will be considered on a case by case basis Please contact Maritime New Zealand for more information:
For burials at sea within the territorial sea (12nm from land) please contact the relevant regional council.
For burials at sea within the EEZ and ECS please contact the Environment Protection Authority
Burials within the EEZ and ECS EPA website