chapter  17
18 Pages

New Zealand’s maritime challenges and opportunities


Introduction New Zealand is often referred to as a small country. In terms of land area and population, this is undoubtedly correct. However, when the maritime part of New Zealand’s sovereign interests is considered, it becomes clear that New Zealand is, in fact, a large maritime nation. The absence of close neighbours allows New Zealand to claim an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) approximately 15 times the size of its land area. The size of this area and the distance from other states are the most significant causes of most of New Zealand’s opportunities and challenges in dealing with this maritime area. However, other challenges are created by the relatively small economy and choices about priorities for managing oceans issues. The EEZ covers more than 4 million square kilometres and is variously described as the world’s fourth or fifth largest EEZ. The EEZ only meets that of another country in two places: in the north-west (Norfolk Island, Australia) and the south-west (Macquarie Island, Australia). In some places, when offshore islands are taken into account, the outer limit of the EEZ is further than 500 nm from the mainland. New Zealand is now entitled to claim an extended continental shelf (the EEZ and extended continental shelf are shown in Figure 17.1). In September 2008, the Commission for the Limits of the Continental Shelf issued recommendations endorsing New Zealand’s claim to an outer continental shelf of approximately 1.7 million square kilometres beyond the limits of the EEZ.2 With these submissions in mind, New Zealand and Australia concluded an agreement on the boundary of their respective extended continental shelves in 2004.3 The only maritime boundaries remaining to be agreed are in respect of the outer continental shelf boundaries with Tonga, Fiji, and possibly France in connection with New Caledonia. The region of ocean for which New Zealand has search and rescue responsibilities is even greater: 30 million square kilometres, covering a large part of the Pacific Ocean from the Equator to the Antarctic, and from half-way to Australia to half-way to Chile (see Figure 17.2). This contributes to a sense that New Zealand’s maritime interests extend well beyond its formal maritime zones. New

Zealand provides assistance to many South Pacific states on an ad hoc and ongoing basis. This includes provision of assistance with monitoring of fishing in their EEZs using Orion P3 aircraft. In 2009, New Zealand and Australia both provided navy divers to assist Tonga to locate the Princess Ashika, a ferry that sank with a loss of 74 lives. It is important to keep in mind that although the maritime estate is large, in other respects New Zealand is still a small country. The per capita gross

domestic product (GDP) is respectable,4 but New Zealand has a population of only just over four million people and its total GDP is lower than many countries in the Asian region, including Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.5 In the past, governments have not considered the oceans a high priority for spending, as will be discussed later in the chapter. This has arguably led to a situation of underfunding in relation to some maritime interests. This chapter first provides a brief overview of many of New Zealand’s interests in the maritime area, and then examines three issues that pose particular challenges for setting priorities: distance, awareness and governance.