Credit: Nava Fedaeff NIWA 2018

Posted on 30 August 2017

Cumulative effects project kicks off

Managing the cumulative effects from natural events and human activities is one of the most urgent and complex problems facing our coastal and marine ecosystems. The many agencies responsible for managing these spaces are working together to address this challenge.

new Innovation Fund project will produce guidelines to monitor and manage cumulative effects (CE) across New Zealand.

“This will be a major step forward,” said Dr Kate Davies, the Project Leader and a social scientist at NIWA.

“At the moment, the way we manage cumulative effects in Aotearoa’s marine environments is extremely fragmented and inconsistent. This interagency partnership has a ki uta ki tai (mountains to the sea) strategy, which is the only feasible way to properly tackle cumulative effects.

“So much of our economy and culture depends on our seas – getting this right is crucial for New Zealand’s future,” said Kate. “There is real momentum building, with agencies, communities and cultures coming together to tackle the problem.”

Better CE management is essential to:

  • Avoid declines in ecosystem health and productivity
  • Set appropriate targets and limits for use and extraction of marine resources
  • Mitigate the risk of environmental, economic or social decline 


New Zealand’s coastal and marine management is covered by 25 statutes governing 14 agencies and operating across 7 geographic jurisdictions. Each deals with CE differently – but human and natural stressors cross these political, jurisdictional, cultural and geographic boundaries so a consistent approach is needed.


The project

The research team represents a diverse range of interests involved in managing CE, including central and regional government, Treaty partners, industry, and research.

The team held a workshop at the start of the month where they:

  • Established a shared vision, aspirations and goals
  • Took stock of the current state of CE management
  • Identified areas for improvement – these include the need for a shared definition of CE, coordinated monitoring and reporting, understanding of thresholds and tipping points, the capacity to make decisions in the face of uncertainty, and a common understanding of rights and responsibilities in relation to CE management and governance

This research builds on the work of another Sustainable Seas project, Navigating marine social-ecological systems.

Project partners: Aquaculture NZ, Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Department of Conservation, Environmental Protection Authority, HH & R Mikaere Ltd, Marlborough District Council, Ministry for the Environment, Ministry for Primary Industries, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, NIWA, Te Ohu Kaimoana, Tūtaiao, University of Auckland, and Victoria University.

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Credit: Dave Allen NIWA
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