Northland students celebrate the opening of Whangarei Harbour Marine ReserveMarine conservation in NZ has a fascinating history starting with arrival of early Māori with holistic tikanga based lore. With arrival of more people came greater pressure on the marine environment. Today, we live in a complex legislative system where biodiversity value is considered against fisheries management and economic drivers. Such as in the Resource Management Act, Coastal Management Policy, Fisheries Act and Conservation Act. NZ has been a global leader in conservation with the world's first national park at Mount Tongariro, established in 1894.
NZ also was one of the first countries to introduce biodiversity protection legislation in the sea with the Marine Reserves Act 1971. Yet, protection of our seas has seriously lagged behind terrestrial conservation. On land just over 32% of our land area is protected for conservation purposes (MfE, 2007). As of 2016, 9.5% of our territorial sea is protected in marine reserve status. But, 99.72% of this is found around the large offshore island marine reserves at the Kermadec and Auckland Islands leaving many marine ecosystems unprotected. Only 0.28% of mainland New Zealand, a total of 511 square kilometres out of 182,072 is fully protected. In our total EEZ (Economic Exclusive Zone) only 0.0042% is protected within a no take marine reserve. We clearly have a lot more to do..