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Journal article

A ‘sea change’ in marine planning: the development of New Zealand’s first marine spatial plan

8 May 2017


Marine spatial planning is a well-established approach internationally, and has been used to assist in the application of an ecosystem-based management approach to the marine environment (Ehler and Douvere, 2009; Ehler, 2014). New Zealand’s first marine spatial plan was completed in December 2016. It was the result of a three-year Sea Change Tai Timu Tai Pari project which focused on addressing the growing spatial resource conflicts and ecological degradation associated with the Hauraki Gulf. The project was innovative in a number of respects, including: establishing a cogovernance structure; tasking a group of Mana Whenua (Hauraki Gulf iwi) and stakeholder representatives with producing the plan on a collaborative basis; addressing both catchment and marine issues in an integrated manner; and integrating mätauranga Mäori and Western science. The plan, which is nonstatutory, was designed to be bold. This was in order to provide a more effective response to the ongoing ecological degradation of the Hauraki Gulf which decades of traditional management approaches had failed to reverse.

This article reviews the background to the marine spatial planning project, the process used to develop the plan, and the issues likely to arise during implementation. It probes the question of whether New Zealand’s institutional framework is likely to be adequate to support the successful implementation of the marine spatial plan going forward.


The Sea Change Tai Timu Tai Pari project has successfully delivered New Zealand’s first marine spatial plan through a novel co-governance process. This is a notable achievement in itself, but the effectiveness of the plan will rest on the extent to which it can be successfully implemented. This is likely to require some institutional changes in order to embed this new approach into marine management in New Zealand.

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Policy Quarterly (73201)
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