Waste disposal within the 12 nautical mile limit
Waste disposal within the 12 nautical mile limit of New Zealand’s territorial waters is regulated by regional councils under the Resource Management Act 1991.
It is the Marine Pollution Regulations 1998 made under the Resource Management Act that specifically applies here.
Waste disposal in the Exclusive Economic Zone* and Extended Continental Shelf
In 2015 responsibility for regulating disposal of wastes beyond New Zealands territorial waters, but in areas still under our jurisdiction was transferred from Maritime New Zealand to the Environment Protection Authority.
Applications for all types of wastes disposal within the Exclusive Economic Zone or Extended Continental Shelf should be directed to the Environment Protection Authority. Information is available on their website:
* The the Exclusive Economic Zone spans 12nm to 200nm.
Waste disposal on the high seas
Waste disposal on the high seas (i.e. beyond the extended continental shelf of all countries) is regulated by the country to which the vessel doing the dumping is flagged (registered).
In New Zealand waste disposal on the high seas from New Zealand registered vessels is administered by Maritime New Zealand under the Maritime Transport Act 1994 and associated rules. The Act authorises the Director of Maritime New Zealand to issue a permit for the disposal of waste or other matter:
- into the sea, or onto or into the seabed, beyond the continental shelfwithin the exclusive economic zone of New Zealand if the disposal is occurring from a New Zealand flagged vessel.
Applications may be considered in accordance with Marine Protection Rule Part 180 , but any such proposals will require a greater level of environmental impact assessment and clear justification why sites within New Zealands jurisdiction cannot be used. Guidance is available in the Advisory Circular:
There are no fixed fees associated with applications for dumping permits for disposal of wastes on the high seas from a New Zealand flagged vessel. An hourly rate however is applied for staff involved in accordance with the Shipping (Charges) Regulations 2000. Usually this will involve scientific staff or staff at managerial levels, charged at a rate of $235.00 per hour inclusive of GST.
The international Law: The 1996 Protocol to the 1972 London Convention
Dumping standards for all jurisdictions (see points 1 and 2 above) in New Zealand are derived from the 1996 Protocol, to which New Zealand is a party. The 1996 Protocol refers to the International Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes or Other Matter, 1972. It is also known as the London Convention.
The global aim of the 1996 Protocol is to:
“Protect and preserve the marine environment from all sources of pollution and take effective measures (according to scientific, technical and economic capabilities), to prevent, reduce and where practicable eliminate pollution caused by dumping or incineration at sea of wastes or other matter.”
A key principle of the 1996 Protocol is the consideration of avoidance, re-use and minimisation of waste sources in order to minimise the amount of material that is required to be dumped at sea. This principle is a well-established requirement of the New Zealand domestic legislation.
The 1996 Protocol embodies the precautionary approach to dumping waste at sea. Rather than setting out the wastes that are NOT allowed to be dumped, the 1996 Protocol defines categories of wastes that MAY be considered for dumping at sea, provided the applicant can demonstrate that no adverse effects will result. All other categories are prohibited from disposal at sea.
Wastes or other matter that may be considered for dumping
The following wastes or other matter may be considered for dumping, provided that any material capable of creating floating debris or otherwise contributing to pollution of the marine environment has been removed to the maximum extent. Also provided that the material dumped poses no serious obstacle to fishing or navigation.
Wastes or other matter may be considered for dumping:
- dredged material
- sewage sludge
- fish waste, or material resulting from industrial fish processing operations
- vessels and platforms or other man-made structures at sea
- inert, inorganic geological material
- organic material of natural origin
- bulky items primarily comprising iron, steel, concrete and similarly harmless materials for which the concern is physical impact. Dumping is limited to those circumstances where these wastes are generated at locations, such as small islands with isolated communities, having no practicable access to disposal options other than dumping
- carbon dioxide streams from carbon dioxide processes for sequestration.
Disposal of vessels on the high seas
For disposal of vessels on the high seas applicants are required to demonstrate that no pollutants are on board vessels intended for disposal at sea and that no other viable disposal options are possible.
In addition, applicants needing to tow a vessel to a disposal location must demonstrate that it is ‘fit for tow’. This will ordinarily involve the use of an independent surveyor of ships and provision of a passage plan.
For disposal of vessels within the territorial sea (12nm from land) please contact the relevant regional council. For disposal of vessels within the EEZ and ECS please contact the Environment Protection Authority.
Burials at sea
Burials on the high seas
Applications for burial at sea from a New Zealand flagged vessel beyond the extended continental shelf will be considered on a case by case basis please contact Maritime New Zealand for more information.
Burials within the territorial sea
For burials at sea within the territorial sea (12nm from land) please contact the relevant regional council.
Burials within the EEZ and ECS
For burials at sea within the EEZ and ECS please contact the Environment Protection Authority.Burials within the EEZ and ECS [EPA website]
Applying for a marine dumping permit for disposal of wastes on the high seas from a New Zealand flagged vessel
To dump waste from a New Zealand flagged vessel on the high seas (beyond the Extended Continental Shelf) a dumping permit issued by Maritime New Zealand is required.
To dump waste within the coastal marine area, resource consent must be applied for with the appropriate regional authority. To dump waste within the exclusive economic zone and the extended continental shelf a marine dumping consent must be applied for from the Environment Protection Authority.
Dumping permits for the high seas
Maritime New Zealand assesses and issues dumping permits for disposal of waste on the high seas from New Zealand flagged vessels. To assist in this, Maritime New Zealand has prepared the New Zealand Guidelines for Sea Disposal of Waste (NZGSDW).
These guidelines provide a comprehensive overview of:
- waste reduction and alternatives to dumping
- waste characterisation
- assessing the waste suitability for dumping
- assessing the dump site
- decision making and monitoring.
The guidelines also provide detailed technical information supporting the assessment approach.
The guidelines aim to:
- help applicants who are applying for permits to dump wastes on the high sea from New Zealand ships, aircraft or offshore installations
- assist Maritime New Zealand who have to decide upon the applications they receive
- promote a consistent, practical consenting/permitting regime for dumping, in accordance with the 1996 Protocol.
The 1996 Protocol refers to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes or Other Matter, 1972. It is also known as the London Convention.
Permits for the disposal of waste at sea are only granted if:
- all other waste disposal options are proved to be impractical
- the effects on the marine environment will be minor
- the activity is consistent with the sustainable management of natural and physical resources.
To apply for, or get more information about, a dumping permit on the high seas from a New Zealand flagged vessel, please contact Maritime New Zealand.