Our Seas

close up of the hands and feet of people gathering kaimoana

Our research aims to identify new ways for people to get involved in making decisions about the management and future of Aotearoa New Zealand’s marine estate. 

Programme leader: Carolyn Lundquist, NIWA/University of Auckland

Ocean management processes need to be collaborative, with input from Māori, non-industry stakeholders and the public. Effective management should incorporate indigenous knowledge and support Treaty of Waitangi partnerships. 

This programme explores participatory processes and frameworks that involve people in decision-making. We are building on increasing interest from New Zealanders in maintaining healthy estuaries, coasts and oceans. By including a diversity of Māori and stakeholders in decision-making, there is increasing likelihood of gaining a ‘social licence to operate’ because people perceive that their values are being considered and accounted for.  

We are developing new frameworks that provide the opportunity for all sectors of society to participate in ecosystem-based management (EBM). This will help develop solutions for ocean management that benefit communities, the economy, and support people who make their living from the marine environment.  

We are: 

  • Providing participatory frameworks that support Māori and stakeholder involvement in shaping Aotearoa New Zealand’s marine management. 
  • Providing best practice guidance for engaging with Māori and stakeholders with an interest in marine resource management. 
  • Enabling industry to understand how best to approach social licence to operate. 
  • Helping Māori and stakeholders engage with, and develop trust in, marine science. 



Testing participatory processes for marine management

We are identifying the best ways to involve interested parties in decision-making about the governance and management of marine environments.

Frameworks for achieving and maintaining social licence

We are investigating the use of the term ‘social licence’ in Aotearoa New Zealand and what factors influence social licence. 

Navigating marine social-ecological systems

Our aim is to identify and/or improve our understanding of institutional, social and cultural factors that need to be incorporated into ecosystem-based management for it to be successfully used to manage Aotearoa New Zealand’s marine resources.

Participatory processes for marine ecosystem restoration

We have examined how the Kaituna River re-diversion strategy was developed, to identify success factors in stakeholder and iwi engagement that could be applied in other marine resource contexts.

Enabling inter-agency collaboration on cumulative effects

We are producing guiding principles to help decision-makers manage the cumulative effects of human activities and natural events on the marine environment.

Latest news and updates

Maritime Museum Talk: Forecasting contamination

Watch recordings of our second NZ Maritime Museum breakfast talk from 19 August 2019. Ben Knight and Lincoln Mackenzie spoke about their research on forecasting and detecting marine contamination and harmful algal blooms.

New ways of defining seafloor resilience

A recent publication from the Tipping Points project identifies the factors that characterise how resilient a seafloor ecosystem is to change caused by stressors or disturbances.

Kudos Award for Drew Lohrer

NIWA researcher Drew Lohrer was named among eight winners in the 2019 Kudos Awards in early September.