• Summary

Using research for legislation, policy, and planning for healthy seas

The health of the moana has deteriorated due to climate change, pollution, human activity, and other pressures (Ministry for the Environment (MfE), Our Marine Environment Report 2022). The Sustainable Seas Challenge produces high-quality research to inform and improve legislation, policy, and planning for healthier seas.  

This year we’ve influenced environmental legislation by making submissions on draft bills, influenced policy by participating in discussions and workshops, supported integrated planning at the regional government level, and brought our research on oceans policy into public awareness. 

Resource management reform 

The reform of the Resource Management Act was a timely opportunity for our research to support new legislation. We prepared well-received written and oral submission on the Natural and Built Environment Bill and the Spatial Planning Bills, which replaced the Resource Management Act.  

“Can I thank the Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge for taking your expertise and the research you’ve done and then putting it into two very useful submissions to help with the development of both these bills.” Hon Eugenie Sage, Chairperson Environment Select Committee 

And a letter from Hon. David Parker, Minister for the Environment: 

“We have considered feedback..., including yours, and have reframed the policy. Limits and targets will work together in the new system.” 

Applying research to marine policy 

Estuaries are influenced by stressors from land and sea and are critical to the health of the marine environment. After a meeting with Hon. David Parker, he wrote to request further work focused on estuarine health indicators: 

“Thank you for providing further information on estuarine environmental limits after our recent meeting. I found it most helpful. You make the point that each estuary is different, and that nationwide attributes are unlikely to be the solution. I am particularly interested in choosing relevant indicators for a small number of estuaries so that we make progress and learn by doing. I have asked my officials to advise how we can do this, and will set up a meeting to discuss their advice with you.”

This request has been followed by several meetings with MfE staff and the development of a collaborative project with MfE to investigate non-regulatory approaches to estuary management using tools developed by the Challenge. 

Fisheries are a critical component of our marine economy. To improve the productivity and environmental performance of the fishing industry, Ministry for Primary Industries has developed a Fisheries Industry Transformation Plan (FITP). We were invited to meet with the FITP leadership group to advise on the application of mātauranga Māori to fisheries based on our research. We also used our blue economy and ecosystem-based management (EBM) research to inform a written submission on the FITP.

Local marine management planning 

Working alongside regional councils is critical to place-based marine management. Sustainable Seas has been working with the Hawke’s Bay Marine and Coastal Group to take an integrated approach to local marine management. The focus is on implementing EBM in a real-world example by combining science and mātauranga Māori with tools and resources from our previous research. The Hawke’s Bay regional study project proposal was developed through a joint workshop with scientists and policy managers from Hawke’s Bay Regional Council (HBRC).  

“Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge has supported targeted science and research in Hawke’s Bay that will provide valuable information to support the review of the Council’s RMA plans and its proposed Kotahi Plan. The Council is currently working with researchers to explore how other Sustainable Seas research can be applied.” Mary-Anne Baker, HBRC 

Through sharing our research with council representatives, Sustainable Seas has co-developed a project that will explain how EBM principles can be incorporated into their Kotahi Plan, which integrates their Regional Policy Statement, Coastal Plan, and Regional Resource Management Plans.  

Reaching wide audiences 

Publishing public articles around marine policy and legislation that break down research and simply explain complex issues helps to shift public mindsets. This makes it easier for decision-makers to tackle changes that will make the biggest difference to the health of the moana. The Conversation article “New Zealand’s maritime territory is 15 times its landmass – here’s why we need a ministry for the ocean” has attracted 9461 reads so far, and has been republished by 22 other media outlets, including Radio New Zealand.