Marine Pollution Regulations For Cleaner Coastal Waters

  • Simon Upton

"Water quality in popular coastal playgrounds will be safeguarded by new Marine Pollution Regulations that prohibit dumping of garbage and controls sewage discharges from boats," the Minister for the Environment, Simon Upton, and Conservation Minister, Nick Smith, said today.

The new regulations under the Resource Management Act, which come into effect on 20 August 1998 will provide nation-wide control of sewage in the coastal marine area. Ships or boats without a treatment facility will not be able to discharge sewage closer than 500 metres to shore or to a marine farm, or if the depth of water is less than 5 metres. Those with a treatment system can discharge anywhere except within 100 metres of a marine farm. The regulations provide a nation-wide benchmark, but regional councils will be able to increase the 500 metre distance from shore and 5 metre depth provision by a rule in the regional coastal plan - such a decision would, of course, require community input. The Ministers stressed that a transition period, until 1 July 2000, would allow boaties time to modify their crafts.

The Ministers welcomed the new regulations. "The way ships and boats have been able to discharge raw sewage into our coastal waters has been a national disgrace. In popular areas like Kawau Island, Marlborough Sounds, the Bay of Islands and Abel Tasman National Park, the levels of pollution have become a health hazard. These regulations will effectively put an end to the days of boaties throwing their turds into the tide."

The regulations also provide nation-wide restrictions on the discharge of garbage. Dumping plastics, dunnage, lining and packaging material in the coastal marine area will be prohibited. Other garbage, including food, glass, metal and paper may be discharged provided it is further offshore than 5500 metres and ground to a particle size of less than 25 millimetres.

With the Resource Management (Marine Pollution) Regulations 1998 in place New Zealand will, at last, be able to ratify the "London Dumping Convention" and the "MARPOL" Convention. These conventions also control the discharge of oil and noxious liquid substances carried in bulk and these matters are also addressed by the regulations.

"Government has consulted widely with local authorities recreational boaties, fishers, tangata whenua and the shipping industry in developing these regulations. We now have a workable solution and marine farmers, swimmers, fishers, and indeed all New Zealanders, will be the beneficiaries," concluded the Ministers.