Skip to main content

Coastal Marine Area

CMA banner - Image credit: Chris Williams

Coastal Marine Area

How does ‘Coastal Marine Area’ fit into the RPS?

The Waikato region has about 1200 kilometres of diverse coastline, ranging from the white sands of the eastern Coromandel to the rugged west coast from Port Waikato to Mokau. Our coastal marine area is highly valued for its ecosystems and biodiversity, and for a range of uses including recreation, food gathering, aesthetic, cultural, conservation and commercial opportunities. 


The coastal marine area is largely public space but it supports a wide range of public and private uses that can result in conflict. Estuaries, for example, are vulnerable environments because they integrate and accumulate the effects of activities on the land and in the sea, which can lead to a number of environmental changes. Increasing pressure for land use change, coastal development and competing recreational and commercial interests in the coastal marine area can create tensions. As our population and technological capacity grow, so do the pressures we put on our marine environment.  Climate change is also expected to have a significant impact on our oceans and coasts. 

While water quality is high in some areas, in others, the quality has been adversely affected by sediment and/or contaminant discharges, particularly from the catchment. As set out in the RPS, Waikato Regional Council is gathering information on current water quality, and will set water quality standards and assess trends over time.  The process of establishing standards recognises that rivers and streams flowing into the coastal marine area are the main source of contaminants and sediment. Regional plans will manage the effects of activities in or near the coastal marine area that have the potential to affect water quality in the marine environment. 

Work is underway already on strategic documents such as the Hauraki Gulf Marine Spatial Plan. These, along with the RPS, will guide the review of the Regional Coastal Plan, which will provide guidance on which activities are appropriate for the marine environment. There is also renewed focus on developing a monitoring strategy to better track and understand marine water quality.

Key messages

Allocation of space: The coastal marine area is almost all public space and its efficient use will be ensured by allocating space to activities in a way that resolves conflicting uses and provides for ecosystem functioning as well as people’s social, economic and cultural aspirations. For everyone to continue enjoying and reaping the benefits of the coastal marine area, maintaining water quality, indigenous biodiversity and natural character will be imperative, as set out in the RPS. 

Particular focus will be given to preserving recreational access, avoiding sprawling or sporadic development, and providing for economic activities such as growth in aquaculture. Avoiding the effects of natural hazards, understanding the implications of projected climate change and protecting areas of significance to tāngata whenua will be focus areas. Opportunities to link marine based activities to land-based infrastructure will also be explored.

Maintaining water quality: High marine water quality is critical to maintain cultural values, people’s enjoyment of the marine environment and for provision of ecosystem services. The Regional Coastal Plan review will develop a policy framework to ensure water quality is maintained or enhanced where it is currently degraded. Marine waters will be classified based on their capacity to assimilate discharges. Solutions for improving water quality, such as enhancement of riparian or wetland areas or educating users will be identified and supported through the planning frameowrk. Provisions will be made to ensure water quality is maintained at or above the standards where it is high, or is improved to meet the minimum standards where it is degraded, with demonstrable progress by 2030. A science based monitoring system will be developed to ensure we are meeting our objectives.

Key contacts

Hilke Giles, Science Team Leader (Coasts).

Tony Quickfall, Manager for Science and Strategy (Policy).

Moniqua Nelson-Tunley, Site Restoration Advisor for Integrated Catchment Management (Natural Heritage). 


“The RPS Coastal Marine chapter identifies that effective decision-making requires good underpinning scientific information, knowledge and advice both in developing plans and in developing management interventions. It places a particular emphasis on improving our ability to effectively manage marine water quality to protect people’s values and provide for the integrated management of catchment and sea.” Hilke Giles, Science Team Leader (Coasts)