Valuable Seas

five kayaks lined up on ocean beach

We are developing processes to measure the values New Zealanders have for the marine environment.

Programme leader: Judi Hewitt, NIWA

Aotearoa New Zealand’s marine environment has abundant natural resources that could benefit the country’s economy. It also has significant social, cultural and spiritual value for generations of New Zealanders.

The way Aotearoa New Zealand governs and manages its marine environment needs to acknowledge and accommodate Māori and community concerns, views and values, as well as resource use. To do this, we must stocktake our natural capital, define values – social, environmental, cultural, spiritual and economic – and indicators of the marine economy.  

We are developing processes to measure the values New Zealanders have for the marine environment. Our research seeks to nurture connections between multiple non-monetary values, investment and the marine environment.  

We want to understand the economic measures that encourage innovation and add value to the marine economy, whilst also maintaining or improving other values. Our aim is to provide ways to balance kaitiakitanga (guardianship) with economic benefit. We believe that identifying these values, and the marine habitats and ecosystem processes that underpin them, will improve New Zealand’s ability to prioritise management actions, make informed decisions, and define trade-offs.

We are: 

  • Developing a framework to incorporate monetary and non-monetary values in decision making.  
  • Identifying the values New Zealanders hold for the marine environment. 
  • Determining whether ecosystem services can be used to predict how impacts on ecosystem health and function affect human values. 
  • Developing ways in which blue marine economies can be measured and enhanced. 



Development of valuation frameworks and principles

We are identifying frameworks and principles for recognising the multiple values of the marine environment to support ecosystem-based management. 

Mauri Moana, Mauri Tangata, Mauri Ora

We are exploring ways to assess the values New Zealanders hold for the marine environment.

Measuring ecosystem services and assessing impacts

We are finding new ways to measure and map the ecosystem services provided by marine ecosystems.

Creating value from a blue economy

We are studying initiatives to create economic value from sustainable marine activities based on healthy ecosystems. We will use the findings to map and model a blue economy.

Ocean acidification mitigation strategies for the mussel industry

We are testing techniques to raise the pH of coastal waters around mussel farms to improve shellfish growth. 

Re-use of offshore infrastructure and platforms: assessing value to communities, industry and environment

We have investigated the regulatory, social, economic and environmental considerations relating to decommissioning offshore oil and gas infrastructure in Taranaki, New Zealand.   

Forecasting contamination risk for shellfish harvest and beach use

We have developed a near real-time forecasting tool for Tasman and Golden Bays to help predict when aquaculture sites and beaches are safe to access. 

Huataukīna Tō Iwi E: Developing marine bioactives from kīna

We are working collaboratively with hapū in Tairāwhiti to develop bioactives from kina. Bioactives can treat diabetes, heart disease and other serious conditions.

Early detection of harmful algal blooms

We are trialling two innovative technologies to detect and monitor harmful algal blooms in coastal waters.

Energy from tidal currents - kickstarting a new marine industry with huge potential

We are investigating whether generating electricity from the strong tidal currents within Cook Strait is viable for Aotearoa New Zealand. 

New blue economy in Kaikōura: a participatory process approach

This project aims to help the Kaikōura community and businesses build a sustainable blue economy as they recover from the 2016 earthquakes.


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.