New Zealand’s marine environment covers over 4 million square kilometres of ocean and is home to more than 15,000 species, many found only here. To iwi and hapū, water is taonga. The marine environment is also used for a range of popular activities such as swimming, fishing, and boating. For economic purposes, this marine environment supports important economic activities, including commercial fishing and aquaculture, hydrocarbon exploration, extracting mineral deposits, tourism, and biotechnology.

New Zealand has 44 marine reserves. The first of these was established in 1975 at Goat Island, north of Auckland. Proposals for establishing new marine reserves have been infrequent. As a result, many of New Zealand’s coastal regions have little or no marine protected areas. Only 0.4% of the mainland territorial sea has marine reserves.

Decisions to establish marine reserves, in effect, prioritise access to, and use of, parts of the marine environment. Those decisions need to consider and balance the unique circumstances of different areas, including communities, biodiversity values, and social, cultural, and commercial interests.

We looked at how two groups used two different processes that generated advice to Ministers for establishing marine protection, including marine reserves. The two groups were the South-East Marine Protection Forum – Te Roopu Manaaki ki te Toka (the South-East Forum) and Te Korowai o Te Tai ō Marokura, the Kaikōura Coastal Marine Guardians (Te Korowai).

Each group used a process that was different in terms of its origin, purpose, scope, and expected outcomes. We examined how inclusive, transparent, and well informed the processes were to identify lessons that could be applied to support the establishment of other marine protection measures. We did not look at the biodiversity objectives of the respective processes.

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