Operating tourist vessels in New Zealand waters

Read about the expected practices and legal requirements for environmental management for all cruise operators operating in New Zealand waters.

Maritime New Zealand encourages all vessel operators to adhere to best international environmental practices in order to preserve the values of our unique marine environments.

Who has jurisdiction in New Zealand waters

Inside 12 miles

Territorial waters within 12 miles of the coast are covered by:

  • the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) and associated regional coastal plans – administered by regional councils around the country
  • the Resource Management (Marine Pollution) Regulations 1998 - administered by regional councils around the country
  • the Maritime Transport Act 1994 – administered by Maritime New Zealand
  • the Biosecurity Act 1993 – administered by Biosecurity New Zealand

The Kermadec Islands and the subantarctic islands are nature reserves administered by the Department of Conservation.

Resource Management Act 1991 [New Zealand Parliamentary Counsel Office] Resource Management (Marine Pollution) Regulations 1998 [New Zealand Parliamentary Counsel Office] Maritime Transport Act 1994 [New Zealand Parliamentary Counsel Office] Biosecurity Act 1993 [New Zealand Parliamentary Counsel Office]

Outside 12 miles

New Zealand has jurisdiction between 12 miles and 200 miles from shore. All vessels are subject to the marine protection rules made under the Maritime Transport Act 1994, which is administered by Maritime New Zealand.


Protected areas and marine reserves

Around the New Zealand coast are a number of protected marine reserves. These reserves have individual protection status due to their high conservation values or vulnerability. Additional restrictions apply to protect their unique characteristics. All waste discharges are prohibited in New Zealand marine reserves. Vessel operators should contact the appropriate regional council about the relevant rules for each area.

local councils.govt.nz [www.localcouncils.govt.nz]

The map below shows the location of marine reserves around New Zealand. The Department of Conservation can provide more information about New Zealand’s marine reserves.

New Zealand’s marine reserves [Department of Conservation]