Coastal Management in New Zealand - Preserving the Natural Character; Problems and Alternative

N. J. Thomson

New Zealand has approximately 15,000 kilometres of coast. The Resource Management Act (RMA) 1991is the primary legislative mechanism for the coast, and gives imperatives for the management and preservation of coastal resources. These imperatives include the safe guarding of the life supporting capacity of ecosystems, and the preservation of the natural character of the coastal environment.

The coastal marine area in New Zealand is defined as having the landward boundary of Mean High Water Spring and the seaward boundary of the outer limits of the territorial sea. This is managed by the regional authorities. The response of the regional authorities to the RMA imperatives for the management, and the preservation of the coast has been to create management areas. The management areas that are for conservation purposes focus on particular habitat types and biota, rather than ecological, and geomorphological processes.

The New Zealand coast has been classified into regions and districts by King et al. This was achieved with a three tier approach using marine topography and geomorphology, hydrology and biology. The result of this classification were districts that approximate ecological units. These units can be refined further to reveal greater detail of the biological communities and the processes and functions that maintain them. This then provides a basis for an alternative method of management that can better recognise the physical processes that underpin the biological processes of the coastal environment.

An alternative approach for the preservation of natural character is therefore two tiered. The first or bottom tier would focus on the maintenance of the physical and geomorphological processes that operate on the coast. The second or upper tier would focus on the biotic elements and functioning of the coastal environment.

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