Setting up a marine farm

Find out how to establish a new marine farm.


This process covers aquaculture below the mean high-water mark, including farming of fish, shellfish, and seaweed.

Setting up a land-based farm above mean high water mark (including those that use seawater) follows a different process.

Find out which species can be farmed

The top 3 marine species farmed in New Zealand are green-lipped mussels (Greenshell™ mussels), Pacific oysters, and king (or Chinook) salmon. Farming of a number of other species, including sea cucumbers, kina, rock lobsters, kingfish, and hāpuku is being researched and trialled, and Undaria can be farmed in some areas.

Undaria farming

Undaria pinnatifida can be farmed with approval from us in certain areas that already have heavy growth of this seaweed.

Requirements to establish a marine farm

To set up a new marine farm, you need:

  • resource consent (also known as a coastal permit) from the local council or authority
  • our assessment of the potential effect of the farm on fishing (known as an undue adverse effects test)
  • to be a registered fish farmer.

Follow the steps to get approval for a marine farm

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Step 1: Get resource consent

Before establishing a marine farm, you must get a resource consent from the relevant regional council. A resource consent provides approval to use natural resources or to carry out activities that affect the environment. You will need to provide an assessment of the environmental effects of the marine farm with your application for a resource consent.

Contact your regional council (or unitary authority) to find out:

  • what consultation and information is required
  • what application forms you need to complete
  • application fees.

The relevant council assesses your application and will either grant or refuse a resource consent. Before a resource consent can be used, MPI must complete an undue adverse effects (UAE) test.

Step 2: Get undue adverse effects test results

After granting a resource consent, the relevant regional council or unitary authority will ask MPI to complete an undue adverse effects test (UAE test). The UAE test involves MPI assessing the effects of the proposed marine farm on recreational, customary, or commercial fishing. The outcome of a UAE test is called an aquaculture decision.

The marine farm will be able to go ahead (the resource consent confirmed) if the UAE test finds there would be no undue adverse effects on fishing.

If the UAE test finds that there would be an undue adverse effect on:

  • commercial fishing for Quota Management System (QMS) species – the farm can proceed if an agreement with affected quota owners is reached
  • recreational, customary or commercial fishing (for non-QMS species) – the farm can't proceed.

The standard fee for an aquaculture decision is $2008.20 (including GST), but depends on the time involved in processing the test. You will be sent an invoice by MPI after the aquaculture decision is made.

Step 3: Register on the Fish Farm Register

To set up a marine farm you must be registered on the Fish Farm Register. The register is managed by FishServe on behalf of MPI.

To register, download and complete the application form.

With your application form, you'll also need to supply:

  • a copy of the resource consent
  • if the consent is not in your name, proof that you have permission from the consent holder.

Send the completed documents to FishServe:

PO Box 297
Wellington 6140.

Marine farm guide

Fisheries New Zealand has developed a guide to help you set up and operate a marine farm.

The guide includes information on:

  • applying for a new marine farm
  • the government's iwi settlement obligations
  • setting up marine farm structures
  • food safety regulations for aquaculture products
  • external sources of water pollution
  • biosecurity
  • levies and additional fees
  • contacts.

Guide to establishing and operating a marine farm [PDF, 982 KB]

Who to contact

If you have questions about setting up a marine farm, email

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