Our company

NIWA, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, is a Crown Research Institute established in 1992. It operates as a stand-alone company with its own Board of Directors and Executive.

What is a Crown Research Institute?

Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) are Crown-owned companies established to undertake scientific research and related activities in accordance with the Crown Research Institutes Act 1992. Ownership is held equally between two shareholding Ministers appointed by the New Zealand Government and governed by a Crown-appointed Board of Directors. CRIs are subject to the Crown Entities Act 2004, the Crown Research Institutes Act 1992, and the Companies Act 1993.

Key requirements for CRIs include:

  • Ensure that research is undertaken for the benefit of New Zealand
  • Pursue excellence in all their activities
  • Comply with applicable ethical standards
  • Promote and facilitate the application of the results of research and technological developments
  • Be a good employer
  • Exhibit a sense of social responsibility
  • Maintain their financially viability.

See our Annual Reports

Operating Framework

CRIs are stand-alone companies with a high degree of independence. Each year, the shareholding Ministers lay out their expectations for the Crown Research Institutes in an 'Operating Framework'. Amongst other things, this defines how CRIs should interpret their obligation to maintain financial viability. Shareholding Ministers assess NIWA’s performance and actions against the expectations in this Operating Framework. MBIE Institutional Performance, assisted by The Treasury, monitors CRIs on behalf of shareholding Ministers. 

Read about MBIE's monitoring role on the MBIE Science and Innovation website

Composition of the NIWA Group

Parent Company

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd (NIWA).


SubsidaryPrincipal activitiesOwnership & voting interest
NIWA Vessel Management LtdVessel charters for scientific research; owns RV Tangaroa, RV Kaharoa, & survey launch Pelorus; operates marine mechanical & electrical workshops for maintenance on the NIWA fleet100%
NIWA Natural Solutions LtdCommercialisation of NIWA products100%
Unidata Pty LtdSupplier of environmental technology products80%

A brief history of NIWA

1992: Crown Research Institutes Act passed and NIWA created as part of a government initiative to restructure the science sector. NIWA personnel largely came from the break-up of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) and the Meteorological Service of the Ministry of Transport.

1995: MAF Fisheries Research Division transferred to NIWA

1996: NIWA Vessel Management Ltd established as a wholly owned subsidiary to own and operate NIWA’s major research vessels, Tangaroa, Kaharoa, and Pelorus. The vessels are available for third party charter.

1999: NIWA establishes the first High Performance Computing Facility in New Zealand.

2000: NIWA’s Māori Research and Development Unit, Te Kuwaha, established.

NIWA establishes two wholly owned subsidiaries in the USA. NIWA (USA), Incorporated concentrates on providing commercial consultancy services, whereas NIWA Environmental Research Institute (ERI) is a not-for-profit organisation specialising in multidisciplinary, public good research.

2001: NIWA opens the wholly owned subsidiary, NIWA Australia Pty Ltd.

2002: NIWA’s Bream Bay Aquaculture Park (near Whangarei) opens, with commercial partners also on-site. The park aims to bridge the gap between small-scale research into new high-value aquaculture species and their commercial-scale production.

2004: NIWA Natural Solutions Ltd created as a wholly owned subsidiary to commercialise NIWA’s science.

NIWA purchases 80% of shares in Unidata Pty Ltd, an instrument manufacturing company based in Perth, Australia. This secures the future supply of instruments for NIWA’s scientific research, as well as providing a platform for the development of environmental monitoring and telemetry systems.

EcoConnect established to deliver environmental forecasts, initially as a joint venture with UK Met Office.

2009: Official opening of NIWA’s new Head Office near Auckland’s Viaduct Basin with purpose-built laboratories and work-spaces.

2010: NIWA invests in the most powerful supercomputer in the southern hemisphere, an IBM p575 POWER6 at a cost of $12.7 million, to become part of the High Performance Computing Facility.

2011: NIWA’s atmospheric research station at Lauder in Central Otago, celebrates its 50th anniversary.

RV Tangaroa undergoes a $25 million refit including the installation of a dynamic positioning (DP2) system making it the only vessel in New Zealand with these capabilities.

The establishment of the new Ministry of Science and Innovation (MSI) provides the foundation for NIWA to make an even greater contribution to New Zealand’s economic growth and to meet our core purpose as the country’s leading natural resource and environmental science services provider.

2012: NIWA celebrates its 20th anniversary.

NIWA and the University of Auckland open the Joint Graduate School for Marine and Coastal Sciences.  

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) are established, both ministries NIWA will work with closely.

2013: NIWA Weather is launched.

RV Tangaroa completes its 10th trip to Antarctica.

2014: NIWA becomes the host of two of the government’s new National Science Challenges, ‘Sustainable Seas’ and ‘Deep South’, and a key collaborator in three others.

2015: NIWA is appointed a core partner of the UK Met Office’s Unified Model Partnership, an international collaboration to develop world-leading weather and climate forecasting systems.

NIWA’s atmospheric research station at Lauder in Central Otago is recognised as one of only five GRUAN (Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) Reference Upper Air Network) certified sites worldwide, and the first and only site in the southern hemisphere.

2016: NIWA is recognised as one of the most significant contributors to the Argo ocean buoy project, having deployed more than 1000 buoys into the ocean as part of the international marine research programme.

NIWA and the University of Waikato establish the NIWA/University of Waikato Joint Institute for Freshwater Management.

2017: NIWA begins planning for new office buildings in Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch.

NIWA celebrates its 25th anniversary.

NIWA is recognised as the Principal Science Partner of the Sir Peter Blake Trust.

2018: NIWA upgrades the High Performance Computing Facility investing in two new Cray XC50s, some of the most powerful supercomputers in the world.

2019: NIWA opens a new office building in Rotorua.

NIWA renews its partnership in the global Unified Model Partnership – one of the world’s foremost weather and climate forecasting collaborations.

2020: NIWA opens its new administration building at the Northland Marine Research Centre in Bream Bay.