Creating value from a blue economy

Seaweed harvesting. © Waikaitu Ltd

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.

Project leader: Nick Lewis, University of Auckland

Duration: April 2016 – September 2019 
Budget: $1,135,000 
Status: Ongoing 

In recent years, advocates for sustainable oceans have focused attention on building a sustainable ‘blue economy’, where innovative practices that promote and sustain diverse industries are based on healthy marine ecosystems. 

We are studying Aotearoa New Zealand-based initiatives to create economic value from sustainable marine practices and activities. We have considered five broad and overlapping marine sub-economies (iwi, techno-science, commodity, community, and small business), and are investigating connections between them. Our research is:  

  • Defining what a blue economy means for Aotearoa New Zealand and working with economic enterprises and agencies to ensure that its opportunities are recognised and realised. 
  • Ensuring that blue economy considerations are incorporated into models of ecosystem-based management. 
  • Identifying sites and possibilities for transitions to a blue economy. 
  • Identifying and supporting regional development initiatives to foster regional blue economies and develop their potential. 
  • Highlighting specific enterprise-level production and investment practices that are helping to bring about a blue economy.  

We have found several activities that are helping Aotearoa New Zealand transition to a blue economy including: investor commitments to sustainable futures (Seafood New Zealand’s ‘Our Promise’ campaign), consumer-oriented and community education programmes; the emergence of Māori enterprises with long term and kaitiakitanga approaches to blue economy; blue economy champions (individuals and organisations) who support participatory resource management processes; and a host of practices from precision seafood harvesting to harvesting of seaweed.  

Journal articles

Hikuroa D (2016) Dan Hikuroa looks at Maori involvement in the formation of a new plan for the Gulf. Gulf Journal, June.

Hikuroa D (2017) Mātauranga Māori—the ūkaipō of knowledge in New ZealandJournal of the Royal Society of New Zealand. 47(1):5 DOI: 10.1080/03036758.2016.1252407

Lewis N (2017) From value as theoretical object to rent as political project. Dialogues in Human Geography 7(3):331 DOI: 10.1177/2043820617736619

Makey L & Awatere S (2018). He Mahere Pāhekoheko Mō Kaipara Moana–Integrated Ecosystem-Based Management for Kaipara Harbour, Aotearoa New ZealandSociety & Natural Resources, 1-19. DOI: 10.1080/08941920.2018.1484972

Winder GM and Le Heron R (2017) Assembling a Blue Economy moment? Geographic engagement with globalizing biological-economic relations in multi-use marine environments. Dialogues in Human Geography 7(1):3 DOI: 10.1177/2043820617691643

Book chapters

Lewis N (2018). Cultivating diverse values by rethinking blue economy in New Zealand. Heidkamp CP and Morrissey J (eds) Towards coastal resilience and sustainability, Routledge, Oxford.

Lewis N & Le Heron R (2018). Re-imagining economy: a fundamental first step for a regenerative Environmental Management. In Clarke B & Hay I. Challenging Environmental Management, Edward Elgar.

Makey L & Awatere S (2018). He Mahere Pāhekoheko Mō Kaipara Moana–Integrated Ecosystem-Based Management for Kaipara Harbour, Aotearoa New Zealand. Society & Natural Resources, 1-19.


What is a ‘blue economy’, and how can Aotearoa get one? Researcher Nick Lewis discusses how can we best develop our marine economy, while protecting the taonga of our marine environment.

Latest news and updates

'Toolkit' for managing cumulative effects

The latest Resource Management Journal is a special issue about our collaborative research into how management of cumulative effects (CE) can be improved. It includes a suite of co-developed recommendations and guidance regarding how to progress work on CE management in Aotearoa.

Tracking the transport of ocean trash

A web-based interactive tool tracks how floating plastic waste moves around New Zealand's coastline. Initially designed as an educational tool for schools, the Ocean Plastic Simulator also has potential for environmental and biosecurity monitoring, and aquaculture.

Blue Economy theme: co-development and funding update

If you're interested in being involved in co-developing our core research projects and/or want notifications about our Innovation Fund then email