The right time to focus on coasts & oceans

Glance at any map of New Zealand and you’ll see a long, thin country – less than 270 000 square kilometres in size, perched precariously on the ‘Ring of Fire’ – ranging from subtropical waters in the north to subantarctic waters in the south. With a 4 million square kilometre Exclusive Economic Zone and 15 100 km of coastline, New Zealand is perhaps not so much the land of the long white cloud as the land of the big blue sea.

No wonder our coastal and marine environments are important to us.

The fishing, aquaculture, eco-tourism, energy, offshore aggregate, marine engineering, and boat building industries are all focused on the coasts and oceans. There is increasing urbanisation and industrialisation of the coastline. At times, development is competing with the need to protect the environment. We also need to acknowledge the cultural, social, recreational, heritage, and ecological value of the coasts and oceans.

Recently, we’ve seen a host of government policy and legislative initiatives relating to the coasts and oceans, including extensions to New Zealand’s continental shelf boundary, proposed changes to the Resource Management Act, and the development of marine protected areas.

Twenty years ago it could be argued that our understanding of the marine environment was limited by the available technology. Today, that’s not the case. Science has much to offer in helping guide sustainable resource exploration, management, and protection of our coasts and oceans. The National Centre for Coasts & Oceans will help to ensure that this research gets into the hands of resource managers, industry, iwi, and government agencies.

The Centre can draw on the talents of more than 80 NIWA staff. It also has unparalleled access to research and consultancy infrastructure, including seafloor multibeam mapping systems on the research vessels Tangaroa and Kaharoa, our recently upgraded supercomputer, ocean-satellite receiver systems, coastal monitoring networks, extensive databases, and a range of nearshore habitat mapping and monitoring instrumentation.

Expect to see the Centre lead work in areas where NIWA has always been strong, such as ocean and coastal mapping for hydrographic, engineering, and nearshore habitat studies, and modelling of the dispersal and impact of point-source discharge, pollutants, and sediment around our coasts, as well as marine environment forecasting. But, as you’ll see from this Update, the Centre is already developing new products and services, such as the web-based access to satellite ocean colour data.

NIWA has great science, great services, and great staff. If your business touches any aspect of the coasts or oceans, this new National Centre can help you find the right people and the right products quickly and easily.

NIWA's National Centre for Coasts & Oceans

  • coastal and ocean seafloor mapping
  • marine resource mapping
  • coastal and ocean observing/monitoring systems
  • estuarine sediment and pollutant modelling
  • coastal and ocean hydrodynamic modelling
  • coastal and nearshore ecological studies
  • coastal engineering studies
  • coastal and ocean habitat studies
  • forecasting for the marine environment
Research subject: Coasts