News Item

June 2022

EDS releases major report calling for oceans reform

The Environmental Defence Society (EDS) has published a report on the future of Aotearoa New Zealand’s oceans management system, which was funded in part by the New Zealand Law Foundation. The Breaking Wave was launched by Minister of Conservation Hon Kiritapu Allan at a function in Wellington today. It is a synthesis of work undertaken by EDS over the past two years which explored what reform of oceans management might look like.

“The system we have now simply hasn’t worked,” said EDS Policy Director Raewyn Peart.

“Our oceans are interconnected but we have separate pieces of legislation for conservation, fisheries, resource management, the exclusive economic zone and more. There are many gaps, overlaps and uncertainties. Some legislation is now well out-of-date.

“Our oceans management system is overly complex and is resulting in poor environmental and other outcomes. Reform is urgently needed,” said Ms Peart.

“We see our report as laying the groundwork for a wide-ranging discussion about what marine reform in Aotearoa New Zealand should look like,” said EDS Senior Policy Analyst Dr Greg Severinsen.

“There are many options for change. Some are small scale and targeted and others are deep and transformative. We look at various options including what the system might seek to achieve, the management tools that might be deployed, how oceans legislation might be arranged and what institutions might be needed. We then put various options together to develop four possible approaches to oceans reform.

“The first focuses on how we could improve and expand our current oceans management toolkit. The second explores deeper structural changes such as integrating current legislation into an umbrella Oceans Act and establishing an Oceans Agency. The third explores the oceans management system through a te Tiriti o Waitangi lens. And, finally, the fourth approach explores the implications of giving legal personhood to the oceans.

The Breaking Wave does not make recommendations but we are hoping it will generate a rich and constructive debate about reforming our oceans management system, which is long overdue.

“In Phase 2 of the project, starting later this year, we’ll be developing a preferred model for the future and a pathway for how we might get there. It’s got to be realistic, but it also has to be ambitious,” concluded Dr Severinsen.

The Breaking Wave is available here in summary and full versions. Hard copies can be ordered online until sold out. In addition to the New Zealand Law Foundation, the project has been funded by the Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation, the Ministry for the Environment and the Department of Conservation.

The New Zealand Law Foundation contributed $120,000 to this research.