Why our marine environment matters

Our marine environment is central to the identity and prosperity of Aotearoa New Zealand. Here is why healthy oceans and coasts are so important.

Our ancestors travelled across the ocean and we remain drawn to the coast

Many of our ancestors arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand by waka and by boat. About 65 per cent of us live within five kilometres of the sea.

We rely on our oceans and coasts for numerous and interrelated purposes

New Zealanders value their marine environment for social, economic, spiritual and cultural reasons.

Our marine environment:

  • Provides a source of recreation
    • New Zealanders enjoy swimming, surfing, fishing, and boating.
  • Generates employment and economic activity
    • Such as fishing, hydrocarbon exploration, extraction of mineral deposits, tourism and biotechnology. In 2017 the marine economy added about $7 billion to our economy and provided jobs for more than 30,000 people.
  • Is of significance to Māori as indigenous kaitiaki
    • In Te Ao Māori, the moana is inextricably linked with identity, well-being, and prosperity.
  • Supports a wide diversity of plants, animals and food resources
    • It is home to a large number of species that live nowhere else in the world.
  • Plays and important role in regulating our environment
    • It provides essential benefits such as absorbing carbon, removing pollutants, and producing oxygen.

Our oceans and coasts support unique ecosystems

New Zealand has 15,000 km of coastline and is responsible for marine waters that extend 200 nautical miles beyond its shores. It has one of the largest exclusive economic zones (EEZ) in the world.

As an isolated island nation, our marine environment has a high level of local variation. Ocean currents and diverse undersea landscapes allow different communities to flourish. Our marine environment supports a wide diversity of plants, animals and food resources. It is home to a large number of species that live nowhere else in the world.

If we look after our oceans and coasts they will look after us

A healthy marine environment will provide New Zealanders with cultural, environmental, economic, and recreational benefits long into the future. A well looked after marine environment is necessary to New Zealand being the most liveable place in the world.

When the mauri (life force and essential quality and vitality of living things) of the moana is healthy it enhances the mauri of humans who are in contact with it. In Te Ao Māori (the Māori world and worldview) people are spiritually connected with the oceans, waitai (water from the sea), and with species and elements of the moana.