News Item

June 2011

NZ's oceans governance to be scrutinised

The effectiveness of New Zealand’s oceans governance regime will come under close scrutiny in a project being undertaken by a University of Canterbury environmental law specialist.

Karen Scott, from the University’s School of Law, has been awarded $50,000 by the New Zealand Law Foundation to evaluate the way New Zealand manages its ocean territory with the aim of developing legislative and policy reform proposals.

The project, titled “Reforming the legislative framework for ocean governance in New Zealand”, will examine New Zealand’s current approach to the management of its maritime zone in light of its international commitments as well as compare this approach to the regimes of other countries, particularly those of the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.

Ms Scott said the aim of her project was to help improve New Zealand’s ocean governance to ensure it fully complied with its international obligations in terms of marine environmental protection.

“The premise is that New Zealand is not managing its oceans very well, particularly the area beyond its territorial sea,” said Ms Scott.

“While New Zealand does some things well, particularly in the area of fisheries management where it is recognised worldwide as leading the way, there is no overarching oceans management strategy. The current regime is sector-based, fragmented and there are significant gaps in the regulations. For example, the environmental effects of offshore mining activities are not explicitly recognised.”

She said these gaps and fragmentation hindered New Zealand’s ability to effectively protect and manage its ocean territory.

“The direction now being taken at an international level is towards integrated and sustainable management approaches. If New Zealand does not move in that direction it might also struggle to meet its international law obligations.”

New Zealand’s territorial sea covers 175,000 square kilometres and its exclusive economic zone (EEC), comprising about 3.9 million square kilometres, makes it the sixth largest EEC in the world.

“New Zealand’s maritime zone is of huge importance to both our economy and our security and I hope my research will have an effect on policy in this area,” said Ms Scott.

Her two-year project will include discussions with relevant New Zealand government departments, and research institutions and oceans management organisations in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, three countries which are in the process of developing integrated approaches to managing their maritime territories.