Latest news

New findings from the record-breaking Tongan volcanic eruption are “surprising and unexpected”, say scientists from New Zealand’s National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).
NIWA is contributing to an international effort to help developing countries reduce the impact of biofouling on aquatic-based industries and environments.
NIWA and The Nippon Foundation are undertaking a mission to discover the undersea impacts of the recent Tongan volcanic eruption.
A robot sea craft is the latest tool NIWA scientists are using to help them count fish.

Our work

Aotearoa New Zealand’s coastal lowlands are our flat low-lying land (or plains) adjacent to coasts and estuaries. Our coastal lowlands are valued for many reasons, including unique ecological wetlands, cultural sites of significance, valued recreational areas, highly-productive agriculture and are popular places to live.

We need information on the food web structures of our marine ecosystems in order to manage the effects on the ecosystem of fishing, aquaculture and mining, as well as understanding the potential impacts of climate variability and change on our oceans. 

NIWA is looking for people who have had a long association with the Hauraki Gulf or Marlborough Sounds to help them with a research project on juvenile fish habitats.

NIWA is developing guidelines and advice to help coastal communities adapt to climate change.

Latest videos

Dive into the alien world of plankton in the Ross Sea

Plankton are the base of the oceans food web and are vital to our survival. But as our world changes will they be able to continue to play this essential role? Join us as we follow a group of NIWA scientists investigating various aspects of this question in the ocean around Antarctica.

Shifting Sands - Tsunami hazard off Kaikoura, NZ

Dr Joshu Mountjoy discusses NIWA's work in assessing the tsunami hazard just south of Kaikoura. 

Find out more about this research. 

Antarctic Coastal Marine Life in a Changing Climate

NIWA marine ecologist Dr Vonda Cummings discusses the likely effects of climate change on marine invertebrates living on the seafloor of the Ross Sea coast.

Next Stop Antarctica

Our Far South is an expedition that aims to raise New Zealanders' awareness of the area south of Stewart Island. Gareth Morgan, Te Radar, scientists and 50 everyday Kiwis are onboard to learn and then share their experience. This is the first video produced by them, showing some of the highlights of the trip so far.

New posters reveal dynamic seafloor

Three new posters reveal the seafloor of the Cook Strait and Wellington Harbour in high resolution detail for the first time. These posters are the product of recent sophisticated seafloor mapping combined with expert marine geological knowledge acquired over decades. They are the culmination of an exceptional collaborative effort among NIWA researchers.

Welcome to Coasts Update, the new quarterly e-newsletter of NIWA's National Centre for Coasts. In this issue, we report on tsunami research, predicting contaminant accumulation in estuaries, seagrass restoration, and a new set of posters depicting the seafloor of Cook Strait and Wellington Harbour.

Seagrass beds form an important undersea habitat for small fish, seahorses and shellfish in New Zealand.
This unique project is the first systematic attempt to quantify and map environmental values of New Zealand's coastal marine ecosystem.
NIWA has developed an Urban Stormwater Contaminant (USC) model to enable urban planners to predict sedimentation and heavy metal accumulation in estuaries and identify problem areas in order to target mitigation measures.

Between 2009-2012 the Coasts Update brought you news of coastal research, events, and workshops at NIWA.

Useful information and resources on New Zealand's marine flora and invertebrate fauna.
A powerful magnitude 8.0 earthquake ruptured the seafloor south of Samoa on 30 September 2009, unleashing a destructive tsunami on Samoa, American Samoa, and northern Tonga (Niuatoputapu).
Ocean acidification is the name given to the lowering of pH of the oceans as a result of increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.

Watch scientists and crew battle icy conditions in the Ross Sea during New Zealand's International Polar Year Census of Antarctic Marine Life voyage, led by NIWA in 2008.

Estuaries are highly valuable systems that provide enormous economic and cultural benefits to all kinds of people. However, expanding human populations and urban development around estuaries is increasing contaminant loads, with metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) accumulating in sediments.
Ngā Waihotanga Iho, the estuarine monitoring toolkit for Iwi, has been developed to provide tangata whenua with tools to measure environmental changes in their estuaries. While Ngā Waihotanga Iho is based on sound science principles, it is also underpinned by tangata whenua values.
This programme is about providing improved knowledge of the causes and potential consequences of coastal hazards in New Zealand, and how often they might pose a threat.

New Zealand’s diverse seafloor sediments

New Zealand’s diverse seafloor sediments

New Zealand’s diverse seafloor sediments

This stunning poster updates the last New Zealand regional sediment chart, published in 1989, using new multibeam bathymetry as well as archived and previously unpublished distributions of seafloor sediments.
Available for $28, AO size (700mm x 1000mm) To order a copy go to
or email: [email protected]

Modelling shellfish larval dispersal

Underwater canyon mapping reveals more seafloor secrets

Preparing for the effects of climate change in coastal areas

New Zealand’s diverse seafloor sediments

Tangaroa upgrades undersea currents technology

Tangaroa upgrades undersea currents technology

Tangaroa during dry dock. (Photo: Brett Grant, NIWA)

Display of current speed through Cook Strait region as measured by the new ADCP.

The recent Tangaroa dry-dock at Devonport Naval Base in Auckland provided the ideal opportunity to install a new Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) - one of the most important tools on NIWA’s iconic research vessel.
ADCPs provide three dimensional current data from beneath the ship by measuring the frequencyshift (or Doppler shift) in echoes reflected from free-floating particles or plankton.

Where do baby oysters go?

Where do baby oysters go?

The aim: more of these – a premium Nelson oyster. (Photo: Stephen Brown, NIWA)

Modelling the dispersal of oyster larvae, to predict distribution of newly settled larvae or ‘spat’, in Tasman Bay, is a new challenge for NIWA scientists.

No-fish zone protects life on the seabed

No-fish zone protects life on the seabed

Grab samples showing the amount of biomass from the fished zone (left), and the protected zone (right). (Photo: Sean Handley, NIWA).

Seabed communities at Separation Point, Nelson, have been left more-or-less untouched since 1980, when the area was closed to power fishing. NIWA scientists studying the communities have found clear evidence of the benefits of that protection.
The area, between Tasman and Golden Bays, was closed to protect various species of bottom-dwelling (benthic) bryozoans living on the soft seafloor sediment.

Colour clues to ocean productivity

Colour clues to ocean productivity

Ocean colour measured by mean chlorophyll concentrations in phytoplankton, from the SeaWifs satellite ocean colour dataset 1997–2007.

The changing colour of the oceans has been captured by satellites over many years, and NIWA scientists are now analysing the images in a bid to understand ocean productivity.
Ocean colour varies through the seasons, according to the amount of phytoplankton (microscopic algae) at the ocean’s surface.

New methane-munching bacteria discovered

New methane-munching bacteria discovered

Methane plumes(vertical shapes) at the undersea Wairarapa methane seep.

An unusual group of methanotrophs – bacteria which digest methane – has been identified by NIWA scientists investigating the fate of undersea methane seeps in the Cook Strait-Wairarapa region.
The bacteria were collected in water samples from the methane seep plumes, at a depth of around 1000 m.

More vast underwater canyons revealed

More vast underwater canyons revealed

Bathymetry (water depth) map of the Moeraki, Haast, Waiatoto, Arawata, and Cascade Canyons off South Westland.

NIWA geologists have mapped more vast underwater canyons off South Westland, including the biggest yet.
Multibeam sonar mapping of the Hokitika and Cook Canyons from RV Tangaroa in 2005 revealed complex, meandering rivers and deep ravines which dwarf any features seen on land in New Zealand.



All staff working on this subject

Principal Scientist - Ecosystem Modelling
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Hazard and Risk Analyst
Principal Scientist - Marine Ecology
Regional Manager - Nelson
Principal Scientist - Natural Hazards and Hydrodynamics
Strategy Manager - Coasts & Estuaries
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Principal Scientist - Marine Ecology
Senior Regional Manager - Wellington
Strategy Manager - Oceans
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Marine Invertebrate Systematist
Coastal and Estuarine Physical Processes Scientist
Principal Scientist - Marine Ecology
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Physical Oceanographer
Principal Scientist - Coastal and Estuarine Physical Processes
Fisheries Scientist
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Coastal Technician
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Marine Ecology Technician
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