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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
  • Sewage – gulation varies between regions. Please confirm requirements with your regional council.


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
  • 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.

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.


Key points for using antifouling paint

  • Antifouling paints are applied to the hulls of boats and any other marine structure. They prevent the build-up of unwanted organisms (bio-foul) that can affect a vessel’s efficiency and integrity. They are also a key biosecurity tool in preventing indigenous and non-indigenous species being transported in New Zealand waters.
  • Antifouling paints are toxic to the aquatic environment and have properties that are harmful to human health and there are rules you must follow when using them.
  • Always read the product label before using antifouling paint. It will tell you the precautions you must take when handling the product and how to dispose of it safely.
  • To protect your health, you must wear the right safety gear (personal protective equipment) when using antifouling paint to avoid getting paint on skin or breathing in vapours.
  • You must set up a controlled work area and post signs when applying antifouling paint and must prevent overspray.
  • Antifouling paint waste must be disposed of appropriately (including old paint removed from boats, used paint cans, rollers, trays, gloves and coveralls).
  • Old antifouling paint removed from boats can still be toxic to people and the environment. When you are scraping, sanding or removing paint from your boat, you must collect your paint waste and properly dispose of it.


Marine biosecurity and marine pests

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) 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.

Check, Clean, Dry [MPI website]

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