Mammoth UNCLOS submission filed

Mammoth UNCLOS submission filed

The final report and submission of the New Zealand Continental Shelf Project was filed with the United Nations in April. This is the product of a ten-year collaborative effort between NIWA’s ocean geology team, Land Information New Zealand (LINZ), the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), and GNS Science. The 2683 page submission represents the largest contract consultancy report NIWA has ever undertaken.

This project is of key strategic and economic importance to New Zealand, as it will extend our rights over the resources of the seabed beyond our 200 nautical mile EEZ to the outer continental shelf boundary under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS). However, defining where the shelf boundary lies requires a lot of underwater detective work. Coastal states must prepare submissions to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf based on detailed hydrographic, geological, and geophysical evidence. This includes information on the gradient of the seabed, sediment thickness, and composition of underlying rocks.

The New Zealand Continental Shelf Project, initiated in 1996, has entailed a $44 M programme of bathymetry, marine geology and geophysics survey, and data analysis. NIWA has been intimately involved in the project, providing expert technical advice, three ship-based seafloor mapping and geophysical surveys using RV Tangaroa between 1999 and 2001, and detailed interpretation and reporting for the final submission.

The project team are now preparing presentation and supporting materials for the first ‘defence’ of the submission in New York in August–September this year.

Part of the UNCLOS team with the mammoth submission, spanning 24 report folders, 2683 pages, 72 chart sheets, 90 seismic sections, and 4 CD/DVDs of digital data. L to R: Russell Turner (LINZ), Vaughan Stagpoole (GNS Science), Kelly Lafoga (LINZ), Elana Geddis (MFAT), Ian Wright (NIWA), Kevin Mackay (NIWA).