NZ, Australia sign Treaty settling maritime boundaries

  • Phil Goff
Foreign Affairs and Trade

This is an historic day for both our countries. The Treaty we have just signed will settle the maritime boundaries between Australia and New Zealand in the Tasman Sea and adjacent areas of the south-western Pacific and Southern Oceans.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea provides that delimitation must be “effected by agreement on the basis of international law…in order to achieve an equitable solution”. That is exactly what we have done. The boundaries in the Treaty represent a fair and equitable outcome for both of us.

These boundaries are the culmination of years of patient and considered negotiations following the announcement by our respective Prime Ministers in August 1999 that officials would work towards delimiting our maritime boundaries.

The Treaty will settle both our countries’ largest outstanding undelimited ocean areas and provides each of us with certainty of jurisdiction over both the water column and seabed, including fisheries and petroleum resources, as well as in relation to protecting and preserving the marine environment and undertaking marine scientific research.

The Treaty will benefit our fisheries and extractive industries, and greatly reduces the potential for future disputes between us. If any fish stocks are shown to occur in the vicinity of the boundary, it will help us to manage them jointly. We have also undertaken to develop by a single coordinated project any petroleum or mineral deposit that is found to extend across the new boundary, thereby maximising the benefits for both of us.

The Treaty delimits the maritime boundary in three main areas:

·The exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf between Norfolk Island (Australia) and Three Kings Island (New Zealand), including Three Kings Ridge east of Norfolk Island and north of New Zealand’s North Island;
·The EEZ and continental shelf between Macquarie Island (Australia) and Campbell and Auckland Islands (New Zealand);
·The continental shelf between Lord Howe Island and New Zealand.

The boundary has two distinct parts: one in the north dividing the EEZs and continental shelf in the region extending from the Lord Howe Rise, past Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands to Three Kings Ridge; and the other in the south separating the EEZ and continental shelf between Macquarie Island (Australia) and Campbell and Auckland Islands (New Zealand). Three maps depicting these boundaries are annexed to the Treaty.

During negotiations, the issues relevant to the delimitation included the relative length of coastlines, the effect of islands, and the distances from relevant coastlines, as well as geomorphological factors such as natural prolongation and the legal and technical case for extensions of the continental shelf.

We intend presenting the Treaty promptly for scrutiny by the respective parliamentary committees on both sides of the Tasman, and hope to bring the Treaty into force as soon as possible, subject to passage of any necessary legislation.

In addition to our close cooperation and coordination in the field of oceans policy, we have agreed that both countries will be supportive of each other’s forthcoming submissions to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf on the outer limit of our continental shelves where they extend more than 200 nautical miles from the baselines. Australia will be lodging its submission towards the end of this year, while New Zealand is scheduled to do so in 2006.