National environmental standards for marine aquaculture
The national environmental standards for marine aquaculture (NES-MA) provide consistent regulations to manage existing marine farms around New Zealand. Find out more about the NES-MA.
On this page:
- National environmental standards
- Purpose of the NES-MA
- How the NES-MA works
- Biosecurity management plans
- Guides to support the NES-MA implementation
National environmental standards are regulations made under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA). They:
- set out technical standards, methods, or requirements relating to matters under the RMA
- provide consistent rules across the country by setting planning requirements for certain activities.
A national environmental standard replaces regional plan rules, except, as in the case of the NES-MA, where it allows regional council rules to remain in force.
Marine aquaculture contributes significantly to regional development. Many marine farm consents will expire between 2020 and 2025.
Marine aquaculture is managed under the RMA, and the rules for considering replacement consent applications vary between regions. This creates regulatory uncertainty. There is also a risk that environmental impact assessments may not always consider the same things.
The NES-MA were established to:
- increase regulatory consistency and certainty
- ensure environmental effects are appropriately managed
- increase industry confidence to promote investment.
Development of the NES-MA was an important action of the Government’s Aquaculture Strategy.
The NES-MA came into force on 1 December 2020.
The NES-MA will make sure marine farms meet best environmental practice while providing a more certain and efficient process for:
- replacement consents for existing marine farms
- change of species applications.
It does this by:
- making applications for replacement consents for existing marine farms a restricted discretionary activity if the farm is in an area that a regional coastal plan has not identified as inappropriate for existing aquaculture
- making applications for replacement consents for existing marine farms a discretionary activity if the farm is in an area that a regional coastal plan has identified as inappropriate for existing aquaculture
- allowing regional councils to make it easier to get a replacement consent for most existing marine farms
- allowing regional councils to make it harder to get a replacement consent for existing marine farms in areas where regional coastal plans have determined that existing aquaculture is inappropriate
- allowing small-scale realignments and changes in approved species during applications for replacement consents
- specifying what councils must consider when determining replacement consent applications for existing marine farms
- restricting public or limited notification for replacement consent applications except:
- applications that include realignment
- species changes that require changes in surface structures
- species changes that involve finfish
- applications in areas that a council has identified as inappropriate for existing aquaculture
- establishing a process for engaging with tangata whenua to find out what they think about a consent application, and taking this into account when the application is determined.
Cabinet initially agreed that the NES-MA would require all marine farms to have a biosecurity management plan in place by 2025. Since then, it has become clear that more work is needed to work out how to improve biosecurity across both marine and land-based aquaculture. MPI, the Department of Conservation, and the Ministry for the Environment provided initial advice to ministers on this in April 2021.
For now, the NES-MA will not include any requirement for marine farms to have biosecurity management plans. The NES-MA still enable councils to assess the biosecurity risks of existing marine farms when a replacement consent application is made.
The NES-MA came into force on 1 December 2020. Fisheries New Zealand has developed 3 guidance documents to support the implementation of the standards. The guidance is targeted at the primary users of the NES-MA, who are:
- regional councils
- the aquaculture industry
- tangata whenua
- interested stakeholders.
Depending on your role, different parts of the guidance will be more relevant to you.
- NES-MA – User guide [PDF, 1.8 MB]
- NES-MA – Plan alignment guide [PDF, 626 KB]
- NES-MA – Consenting guide [PDF, 1.1 MB]
About the NES-MA guides
The user guide provides high level guidance outlining the purpose of the NES-MA, how it relates to other legislation, roles and responsibilities, key concepts, and its application.
The plan alignment guide provides detailed guidance for council policy planning staff.
The consenting guide provides detailed guidance for council consent staff and applicants to assist with the processing of applications under the NES-MA.
Find out more
- NES-MA regulations – NZ Legislation
- Press release from the Minister for the Environment and the Minister of Fisheries
- View Cabinet papers and related information
- Consultation and development of the NES-MA
- Report and recommendations on the submissions and the subject matter of the proposed National Environmental Standard for Marine Aquaculture (June 2020) [PDF, 4.1 MB]
- Report and recommendations on the submissions and the subject matter of the proposed National Environmental Standard for Marine Aquaculture (October 2018) [PDF, 3.9 MB]
- National Environmental Standard for Marine Aquaculture: Section 32 evaluation report (June 2020) [PDF, 2.4 MB]
- National Environmental Standard for Marine Aquaculture: Draft section 32 evaluation report (October 2018) [PDF, 3.6 MB]
- Review of the proposed National Environmental Standard for Marine Aquaculture for consistency with NZCPS 2010
Who to contact
If you have questions about the NES-MA, contact Fisheries New Zealand's aquaculture team:
- email email@example.com
- phone 0800 00 83 33.