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Environmental protection

Marine pollution law requires us to respect and care for the marine environment – that means disposing of all waste correctly, as well as being aware that even small amounts of fuel and oil in the water can be fatal to birds and marine life.

Resource Management (Marine Pollution) Regulations [New Zealand Legislation: Regulations]

Waste disposal from small craft – key points

  • Plastics – not permitted
  • Oil – not permitted
  • Oily water – only if less than 15mg/L oil – use oil absorbent cloth to filter
  • Food waste – must always be reduced to a size under 25mm and should only be discharged over 3 miles from shore
  • Untreated sewage – only if more than 500m from land, a marine farm, mataitai reserve, or more than 200m from a marine reserve – water must always be deeper than 5m
  • Treated sewage – only if more than 500m from a marine farm or mataitai reserve.

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Report all oil spills

Diesel and petrol are particularly toxic, but lubricant and hydraulic oils are also very harmful to the marine environment. Most spills in the recreational boating sector result from careless refuelling or pumping oily bilge water overboard.

You should report all spills to your regional council – the sooner the council hears about an oil spill the better the chance of minimising damage to the environment.

Key points for boat owners

  • Make sure your engine is properly maintained, that it does not leak oil or fuel, and that the bilge is kept clean.
  • Stop water leaking into your boat, so you do not need to pump out so often.
  • Soak up any floating oil with sorbent material (newspaper, rags or paper towels in an emergency) before turning on the bilge pump.
  • Never mix detergent with oily bilge water, this mixture can be even more toxic than oil alone, and is very difficult to clean up.
  • Always keep a piece of sorbent material underneath the engine to soak up accidental leaks.
  • If you have an automatic bilge pump, you must ensure there is never any floating oil in the bilges. Larger boats can install a bilge water filter, which will remove most contaminants.

Key points when refuelling

  • Estimate how much fuel you need in your tanks before you start, to prevent overflow.
  • Plug the scuppers (and breathers if necessary) with rags or sorbent material.
  • Keep sorbent material on the deck to mop up spills. You may wish to cut a hole in the centre of an oil absorbent pad for the fuel nozzle to go through and place it over the filler to contain blowback in the pipe.
  • Make sure a responsible adult monitors the entire refuelling operation. Do not let children or untrained people refuel your boat.
  • Never leave the fuel pump unattended.
  • Whenever possible, refuel at an approved area using a fuel pump. Avoid transferring fuel to your boat in containers. If you must use a container, be sure to use a large funnel, and pour slowly and smoothly. Alternatively, use a siphon hose with integrated pump, to reduce spillage.

Marine biosecurity and marine pests

MAF Biosecurity New Zealand is the government agency responsible for marine biosecurity. It has work programmes underway to help prevent marine pests arriving in New Zealand in the first place, to detect and take action against any new arrivals, and to help manage any arrivals that do become established pests.

It can be difficult for the untrained eye to tell from the surface if a boat is a biosecurity risk or not. The safest rule of thumb is to ensure your boat hull never carries more than a slime layer and ideally this is regularly brushed or wiped off. Your boat should also have a regular out-of-water clean and a liberal coating of antifouling paint.

Marine biosecurity – vessel cleaning [Biosecurity New Zealand]

Marine environmental protection

Two-stroke vs four-stroke engines [PDF: 74Kb, 1 page]

If you own an older two-stroke outboard, you should consider upgrading to a modern low emission (direct injection) two-stroke or four-stroke alternative.