History of MNZ

While our structure, responsibilities and name have changed many times in the last 150 years, the role of helping to keep mariners safe has always been the priority.

Formation and early years

Established in 1862, the Marine Board of New Zealand was one of New Zealand’s first government agencies. It was set up to collect levies to pay for the construction of lighthouses. By 1900 27 manned lighthouses operated around New Zealand.

The Marine Board was disestablished and replaced by the Marine Department in 1866.

In 1972 the Marine Department was absorbed into the Ministry of Transport as the Marine Division. Following government restructuring in 1988 it became the Maritime Transport Division, although still within the Ministry of Transport.

In 1993 the Maritime Safety Authority (MSA) was established as a Crown authority in its own right, replacing the Ministry of Transport’s Maritime Transport Division. The MSA’s establishment was part of a Transport Law Reform Bill which addressed the full range of New Zealand’s maritime laws and provided the first major reform of shipping legislation in almost 40 years.

The Maritime Safety Authority was responsible for administering the new Maritime Transport Act 1994 when it came into force in February 1995. This act affirmed the MSA’s role as the organisation responsible for developing and upholding national standards and regulations for ship safety in New Zealand. On 1 July 2005 the Maritime Safety Authority was renamed Maritime New Zealand, to reflect the organisation’s wider roles of maritime safety, security and marine environment protection.


Our organisation today

We are continuing to develop our role. Our efforts to become more evidence-based, risk-focused and intelligence-led, help to ensure our relevance and success as a regulatory, compliance and response agency.

Related information:


Learn about New Zealand’s maritime history.

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