Each day during the month of April, the Institute will feature one of the 30 ‘perspectives’ from the One Ocean report. These short articles include a diverse range of views regarding oceans management in New Zealand. Enjoy!


James Palmer, Deputy Secretary, Sector Strategy, Ministry for the Environment

Durable ocean policy

Aotearoa New Zealand is more isolated and bounded by ocean than any other developed country on Earth. Our remoteness from population centres of the world and the footprint of civilisation is both our greatest challenge and greatest opportunity.

The ocean played a defining role in creating our nation, carrying the many peoples, and more than a few pests, to our shores. We are a seafaring people for whom the sea remains central to our identity. And yet our oceanic responsibilities vastly exceed what we know and understand; we are servant to it much more than master. As with our lands, we face choices about development for prosperity today and tomorrow, balancing broad societal values as well as preserving ecosystems for as much their own sake as our own.

Our main challenge is to provide for diverse uses and values from a changing marine environment in a considered, coherent and durable way, with all the inherent limitations of knowledge and certainty and with meagre resources. This will undoubtedly take greater investment, much participation and dialogue and a willingness to explore and experiment in the face of uncertainty. There are no perfect institutional arrangements for governing our marine environment, just like there is no perfect information waiting to be uncovered. We need to accept that governing our marine environment will be an ongoing voyage of discovery, with some risk and reward, in the same spirit of those who first sailed to our shores. But we are not without a compass; the unbridled transformation of our lands provides important lessons of mistakes we must not repeat and signposts for improvement.

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