Antarctica and New Zealand Law
The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty is implemented in New Zealand law by means of the Antarctica (Environmental Protection) Act 1994.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is responsible for administering the Act and the Minister of Foreign Affairs makes the final determination on whether an activity may proceed.
The Act applies to:
- Any person in the Ross Dependency (though not to those people or activities that are part of an expedition of another Party to the Environmental Protocol)
- New Zealand citizens and residents
- Any person that is part of, or organising an expedition to Antarctica in New Zealand or that departs from New Zealand for Antarctica
- New Zealand registered ships and aircraft, and any other ships and aircraft that depart for Antarctica from New Zealand
An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) must be submitted to MFAT for approval prior to any activity taking place in Antarctica. It is an offence to carry out an activity in Antarctica without completing this process.
When approving an activity the Minister has discretion under the Act to set conditions and make directions regarding the proposed activities, to protect the environment, and manage compliance, environmental monitoring and post-activity reporting. Non-compliance is an offence carrying a penalty of up to one year’s imprisonment or a fine of up to $100,000.
The Act prohibits the following unless a permit is obtained:
- Entering or carrying out any activity in an Antarctic Specially Protected Area (ASPA)
- Taking any native bird or mammal in Antarctica
- Removing or damaging native plants so their local distribution or abundance is significantly affected
- Harmfully interfering with native plants, mammals, birds or invertebrates
- Introducing any species of non-native animal, plant or micro-organism
- Importing any non-sterile soil into Antarctica
- Removing any part of or the contents of any historic site or monument
An application for a permit is considered at the same time as an EIA assessment if any of the above activities are identified in the EIA document. After consideration, the Minister advises the applicant if the activity can proceed or not. If the activity can proceed, a notification of approval and permits are issued often with conditions attached.
The Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) is implemented in New Zealand law by means of the Antarctic Marine Living Resources Act (1981).
The Act is administered by the Ministry for Primary Industries and places restrictions on activities being undertaken within the CCAMLR Convention Area. It is an offence under the Act to take any marine organism, whether alive or dead, without first obtaining a permit to do so from the Minister.
Activities planned or conducted by New Zealanders in Antarctica are potentially also subject to one or more other New Zealand Acts:
Environmental Legislation for New Zealanders in Antarctica provides a guide to the implications of each of these Acts for those planning activities in Antarctica. It is intended as a guide only. For further information consult the relevant Act and/or the contact person shown on the guide.
Activities planned or conducted by New Zealanders in Antarctica are potentially governed by seven different pieces of New Zealand environmental legislation. This document provides a brief outline of the implications of each of these pieces of legislation for your activities in Antarctica. It is intended as a guide only and does not substitute the actual legislation and the requirements thereof. While we are here to help, it is your responsibility to ensure that you comply with all applicable environmental regulations. Consult the relevant Act and/or the contact person listed in this guide if you have any doubts or require further information.
We recommend you also visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) website.
Animal Welfare Act 1999
Under the Animal Welfare Act (1999), no one may carry out research, testing, or teaching involving the use of animals (including mammals, birds, fish and other animals including some invertebrates as defined under the Act) unless they are by contract working under an approved code of ethical conduct. Most research institutions have an animal ethics committee (AEC) with an approved code. AEC approval is required before commencing any work involving animals in Antarctica.
Further information is available from the Ministry for Primary Industries website.
Antarctica (Environmental Protection) Act 1994
The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty is implemented into New Zealand legislation through the Antarctica (Environmental Protection) Act (1994) (the Act). The purpose of the Act is to promote the comprehensive protection of the Antarctic environment and the value of Antarctica as an area for scientific research. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) administers the Act. Under the Act, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) must be completed and approved by MFAT before any activity can be undertaken in Antarctica. The EIA can take the form of a Preliminary, Initial, or Comprehensive Environmental Evaluation. In addition, the following activities are prohibited without a permit:
- Entering or carrying out activities in an Antarctic Specially Protected Area (ASPA)
- Taking or attempting to take¹ any native bird or mammal
- Removing or damaging native plants in quantities which significantly affect local distribution or abundance
- Harmfully interfering² with native plants, mammals, birds or invertebrates
- Introducing any species of animal, plant or micro-organism not native to that area
- Importing non-sterile soil
For further information and enquiries contact:
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Private Bag 18901
Phone: +64 4 439 8000
Fax: +64 4 439 8507
¹ “Take” means to kill, injure, capture, handle or molest, a native mammal or bird, or to remove or damage such quantities of native plants that their local distribution or abundance would be significantly affected. (Environmental Protocol Annex II, Article 1)
² “harmfully interfere” means flying or landing helicopters or other aircraft, using vehicles or vessels including hovercraft and small boats, or using explosives or firearms in a manner that disturbs concentrations of birds and seals; wilfully disturbing breeding or moulting birds or concentrations of birds and seals by persons on foot; significantly damaging concentrations of native terrestrial plants by landing aircraft, driving vehicles or walking on them, or by other means; and any activity that results in significant adverse modification of habitats of any species or population of native mammal, bird, plant or invertebrate. (Environmental Protocol Annex II, Article 3)
Antarctic Marine Living Resources Act 1981
The Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR Convention) is implemented into New Zealand legislation through the Antarctic Marine Living Resources (AMLR) Act (1981) which is administered by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI). Under this Act no marine organism¹, alive or dead, may be taken²; from the area covered by the CCAMLR Convention without a permit from MPI. This applies to both scientific and exploratory commercial fishing activities. MPI can be contacted for further information and inquiries.
Event Managers should apply to MPI for an AMLR permit at the earliest opportunity. This application must include:
- Event Managers full name and contact details including the physical address, email address and phone number(s)
- Event number assigned by Antarctica New Zealand
- Period and duration that the AMLR permit is required
- Complete list of the marine organism(s) by weight and/or number, alive or dead, intended to be
- Full details of or a copy of the completed EIA information to be submitted to MFAT under the
Antarctica (Environmental Protection) Act (1994)
Note: Antarctica New Zealand will provide MPI access to the EIA for the purpose of processing AMLR permit requests.
Once MPI has received and reviewed the information provided, they will request from the applicant any additional information necessary to assess the proposed activities against the requirements for the AMLR Act. All requests for AMLR permits should be received by MPI 16 weeks prior to the period for which the permit is required.
For further information, enquiries and for submitted AMLR applications contact:
Market Access Counsellor
Ministry for Primary Industries
PO Box 2526
Ph: +64 4 9184265
¹ Under the AMLR Act 'marine organism' means any organism in the Convention Area that belongs to any species of living organisms that are found in the Convention Area. Under the CCAMLR Convention, Antarctic marine living resources means the populations of fin fish, molluscs, crustaceans and all other species of living organisms, including birds, found south of the Antarctic Convergence. For New Zealand legislation, marine mammals are applicable under the Marine Mammals Protection Act (1978), marine birds are applicable under the Antarctic (Environmental Protection) Act 1994 and all other marine organisms are applicable under the AMLR Act, including zooplankton and phytoplankton and marine algae.
² “take” includes to take, catch, kill, injure, attract, poison, tranquillise, herd, harass, disturb, or possess: to brand, tag, mark, or do any similar thing; or to attempt to do any of these things (Antarctic Marine Living Resources Act 1981 section 2).
Biosecurity Act 1993
The Biosecurity Act (1993) is administered by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and aims to exclude unwanted organisms from New Zealand. Under the Act, the importation of any plants, animals or plant or animal products requires an Import Health Permit. This applies also to media which could harbour organisms (e.g. water and soil). It is important to ensure that your MPI Import Health Permit specifically lists all sample types to be shipped to New Zealand.
For some samples, Import Health Standards may allow you to import samples without a permit. These include small amounts of clear water, clean rocks and preserved animal specimens. It is important to note what preservation methods are applicable under the Import Health Standard (i.e. frozen or dried non- viable samples versus preserved in formalin or alcohol, etc.).
You can find Import Health Standards on the MPI’s website or by contacting them directly on here.
Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996
The purpose of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (1996) is to protect the environment, and the health and safety of people and communities, by preventing or managing the adverse effects of hazardous substances and new organisms. This Act is administered by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA). Under the Act, approval is required to import a species that has not been brought into New Zealand since the Act came into force. The Act provides for rapid assessment of applications to import species that cannot survive in the New Zealand environment.
Soil and water samples being imported to New Zealand may contain micro-organisms. If the samples are being imported to study the micro-organisms, a Hazardous Substance and New Organism (HSNO) Act approval must be sought. If, however, the samples are being imported for analysis to which the presence or absence of micro-organisms is irrelevant, no approval is required (although normal MPI controls apply – see Biosecurity Act information above).
The hazardous substances part of the Act requires that all chemicals and hazardous substances are registered and handled in accordance with specified controls. Substances are still being transferred to this new system, so the requirements of the substance’s MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet), which are readily available at many internet sites, are followed in the interim.
Further information can be accessed from the EPA website at: www.epa.govt.nz.
Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978
The Marine Mammals Protection Act (1978) provides for the protection, conservation and management of marine mammals in New Zealand and its territorial waters, including within 12 nautical miles of the Ross Dependency and the internal waters of the Ross Sea. The MMPA is administered by the Department of Conservation.
Under the Act, a permit from the Minister of Conservation is required to hold in captivity or take¹ a marine mammal (seal, whale, dolphin, porpoise, dugong, or manatee), whether alive or dead.
For further information and enquiries contact:
Gemma Sigglekow (Permit Advisor)
Marine Mammal Permitting
Department of Conservation
Conservation House – Whare Kaupapa Atawhai
Laura Boren (Technical Advisor)
STSO-National Marine Mammal Coordinator
Marine Conservation Team, Aquatic and Threats Unit
Research and Development Group
Department of Conservation
Conservation House – Whare Kaupapa Atawhai
DDI: +64 4 471 3062
¹ “take” includes to take, catch, kill, injure, attract, poison, tranquillise, herd, harass, disturb or possess; to brand, tag mark or do any similar thing; to flense, render down or separate any part from a carcass; or to attempt any of these things (Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 section 2).
Trade in Endangered Species Act 1989
The Trade in Endangered Species Act (1989) enable New Zealand to fulfil its obligations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to further the protection and conservation of endangered species of wild fauna and flora by regulating the export and import of such species and any product derived from those species. The Trade in Endangered Species Act is administered by the Department of Conservation.
Under the Act, a permit from the Director-General of Conservation is required to trade¹ in any specimen of an endangered, threatened, or exploited species into or from New Zealand. Species relevant in the Antarctic context are any cetacean samples listed on CITES Appendices (www.cities.org). Shipping cetacean samples from Antarctica to New Zealand and onwards require a TIES permit.
For further information and enquiries, please contact:
Ranger - CITES National Compliance Team
Department of Conservation - Te Papa Atawhai
PO BOX 10420
DDI: (04) 495-8623 vpn: 8333
¹ 'trade' means export, import, re-export, or introduce from the sea (Trade in Endangered Species Act 1989 section 3).