• Report

Encouraging coastal and marine restorative economies in Aotearoa New Zealand

This report is a starting point in the development of knowledge, frameworks, and decision-support tools to enable restorative economies to emerge in marine and coastal spaces in Aotearoa, New Zealand. It is part of a broader area of research on Blue Economy within the Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge. Cortés Acosta S, Stancu C, Brown I, Bridger T (August 2021)



Although the notion and definition of restorative economies continue to evolve, these refer to the melding of environmental restoration and business activities. Restorative economies are practical models that foster new investments and business enterprises aiming to reverse environmental degradation and protect natural capital.

The purpose of this report is to take stock and contribute to the knowledge foundation for encouraging restorative economies in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Scope of the report and methodology

The development of this report is based on:

  • A literature review of concepts, such as the blue economy, natural capital (ie the stock of natural resources) from the perspective of sustainability of the economy, and ecological restoration.
  • A desktop review on several international and domestic examples of restorative initiatives to learn about the range of blue ecosystems covered, the scale and the scope of the initiative, key players, and funding sources.
  • A discussion of potential barriers and opportunities for restorative economies in the country.

We have studied several international and domestic restorative initiatives and identified common features, including:

  • The scope of the restoration varies from small community-based solutions to large scale projects and from a single ecosystem (eg mangroves) to multiple ecosystems.
  • Funding has been typically diverse, including private, philanthropic, and governmental sources. Investors and stakeholders typically invest in nature with no financial return, using mechanisms such as grants or donations.
  • Local volunteers have played a large part in the success of the restoration initiatives, particularly the larger-scale projects.
  • Local communities recognise and gain benefits from the restoration initiative.
  • Upscaling is possible within an ecosystem through species expansion or by restored ecosystems (eg mangrove, seagrass). This is because biodiversity can flourish in these areas.
  • Science and research are deployed in restoration design and implementation, as well as monitoring and reporting.

A restorative economies assessment can be performed holistically by reviewing at least four attributes – social, cultural, environmental, and financial. Combining metrics with the results of an assessment is essential to identify and prioritise specific needs and opportunities for investment.

A series of barriers and opportunities were identified in the report, including:

Public and private investment involves multiple barriers (eg knowledge-gaps and uncertainty of implementation). Additionally, the infancy of environmental markets and blue carbon will be a challenge (eg the uncertainty of implementation and information gaps).

Regarding opportunities, we consider the current context internationally and in New Zealand, and the insights from the examples studied to identify motivations and demand for restoration and nature-based solutions (NbS) more broadly.

We discuss:

  1. the creation of NbS for New Zealand
  2. enhancement of the knowledge base for NbS
  3. connecting place-based solutions, and
  4. using public and private investment opportunities
Further steps in developing restorative economies

This report focuses on the concept of restorative economies as part of the blue economy agenda.

Further research is needed with a focus on practical ideas that contribute to the development of restorative economies by addressing key bottlenecks in knowledge, tools, and practices regarding financial and non-financial returns of ecosystem level solutions.

This includes measurement and verification methodologies and protocols in coastal and marine environments. This covers natural capital valuation and accounting, and biodiversity, climate and social outcomes that are needed for the development of investment opportunities for revenue-generating and market-based solutions in Aotearoa New Zealand’s context.

It also requires identification and testing of attributes and metrics that underpin the value proposition of restorative economies and options to manage all capitals (natural and built) in support of human well-being and development.

Research and prototyping of options to foster the use of biodiversity and ecosystem-related data using digital platforms – in relation to environmental markets (carbon, nutrient and biodiversity credits) or traditional products and services (aquaculture, fisheries, energy, etc), would also help progress the knowledge and solutions for restorative economies.

  • Encouraging restorative economies in Aotearoa NZ Feb 22

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