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Potential for charging for occupation of public space in the coastal marine area (CMA)

Photo of jettingMost of the coastal marine area is public space, also known as the common marine and coastal area, or the 'commons'. No person may occupy the commons on an ongoing basis (eg. with a fixed mooring, a jetty or a marine farm) unless they hold a resource consent or a rule in the regional coastal plan permits it.

All regional councils are required by law to decide whether or not to levy a coastal occupation charge on any person or business that occupies the commons. Waikato Regional Council will need to determine if such charges are appropriate for the Waikato region and should be levied on private occupation of public marine space. 


Most of the Waikato region’s coastal marine area is public space, available for the community's use and enjoyment. In some locations private or commercial structures may affect the public's use of or access to the coastal marine area.

The Waikato Region Policy Statement (method 7.1.3) identified the need when preparing a regional coastal plan to consider whether a coastal occupation charge regime should be introduced to levy rental on private occupations of public space. As Waikato Regional Council is preparing to update the regional coastal plan, it is timely to consider if an occupation charge is warranted

What are occupation charges?

An occupation charge would be an annual fee, to be paid by any person, business or organisation that occupies public space in the coastal marine area. It would be like a rental for occupying public space, similar to the concessions paid for occupying and using national parks and reserves. They are intended to compensate the public for the private use of their space and for any loss of access to it.

Any charge would be relative to the degree to which the public is excluded and the extent of private benefits gained by the occupier. Revenue collected from coastal occupation charges could be used to enhance the sustainable management of the coastal marine area.

These charges replace an earlier system of foreshore licence fees that were levied under the Harbours Act, and coastal rentals levied under regulations. In 1997 these were replaced with the coastal occupation charging system in the RMA.

Charges could apply to wharves, jetties, boat ramps, boat sheds, moorings, marine farms, marinas, cables and pipelines. They would only apply to occupation of public space within the coastal marine area. They would not apply to structures intended solely for the use of the public.

Ownership of the seabed

The Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011 created a new regime in which no person, including the Crown, is able to own any part of the common marine and coastal area (the commons). The small areas of private title that already existed in the coastal marine area were unaffected and are not part of the commons.

Occupation charges can only apply to the commons. Occupation of privately owned space in the coastal marine area is not subject to any coastal occupation charge. 

Maori are able to seek recognition of their customary title and rights in the commons. Any person exercising a protected customary right is not subject to an occupation charge. Any group that holds customary marine title is not required to pay occupation charges in relation to that space.

Photo - marine farm

What we are doing

Waikato Regional Council, as part of the preparation of an updated regional coastal plan, is considering whether to levy occupation charge.

Should it be determined that an occupation charging regime should be introduced, coastal occupation charges would be implemented as part of the review of the regional coastal plan and would not take effect until the new plan is operative.

It is expected that the proposed regional coastal plan process will take several years.

More information

If you’d like to be involved in any discussions on coastal occupation charges, or would like more information, call Waikato Regional Council’s freephone 0800 800 401.

Coastal marine area (CMA)

The coastal marine area (CMA) is defined as the area encompassing the foreshore, seabed and coastal water, and air space above the water:

  • of which the seaward boundary is the outer limits of the territorial sea:
  • of which the landward boundary is the line of mean high water springs, except where that line crosses a river. The landward boundary at that point shall be whichever is the lesser of
    • one kilometre upstream from the mouth of the river; or
    • the point upstream that is calculated by multiplying the width of the river mouth by 5.