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Aids to navigation

Maritime New Zealand maintains the lighthouses, beacons and buoys outside harbour limits that guide shipping around New Zealand’s coastline. Local authorities manage the navigational aids within their own harbours.

The buoyage and beaconage system in New Zealand

The waters of New Zealand and nearby islands are marked for safe navigation using the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) system.

This navigation system applies to all of New Zealand’s coastal and river water ways including harbours and lakes.

The IALAs maritime buoyage system uses marks on nautical charts to show the side on which a buoy or beacon should be passed when heading in a given direction. These marks have a variety of colours, shapes and light characteristics.

Buoys and beacons that aren’t lighted have reflective marking strips to make them more visible at night.

Maritime New Zealand’s publication New Zealand’s system of buoys and beacons includes:

  • harbour navigation aids including harbour approach channels
  • marking and lighting methods
  • oceanographic station navigation requirements
  • markings for offshore oil and gas rigs and platforms
  • standard markings for marine farms, offshore isolated dangers, water ski lanes and other markings.
New Zealand’s system of buoys and beacons [PDF: 321Kb, 28 pages]


Hazards at sea – how to report them

Hazards at sea need to be reported on maritime radio.

To report a hazard at sea, contact Taupo Maritime Radio (ZLM) on HF or MF radio, or any of Maritime New Zealand’s maritime radio stations on VHF radio.

Give a description of the danger to navigation, where the hazard is (its position) and the time that you noticed the hazard at that position.

Maritime radio will advise Maritime New Zealand's marine duty officer of the hazard. They will issue a coastal navigation warning; or if the hazard is located more than 300 nautical miles offshore, the Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) Hydrographic Office will issue a NAVAREA XIV warning.

These warnings are broadcast from:

  • Taupo Maritime Radio (ZLM)
  • all maritime radio stations
  • the INMARSAT - C Safety NET system. This is broadcast via the Pacific Ocean Region (POR) satellite through the Land Earth Station (LES) in Albany, Auckland.