MPI is the government's principal adviser on aquaculture. Learn about the legislation supporting land-based and marine aquaculture.

Land-based aquaculture

MPI manages land-based aquaculture through the Freshwater Fish Farming Regulations 1983, under the Fisheries Act 1996. The regulations cover all aquaculture above the high tide mark, including aquaculture:

  • in freshwater canals
  • in indoor aquariums
  • on land using fresh water
  • on land using sea water or brackish water (either pumped from the sea or circulated around the farm).

Under the regulations, farmers must have a fish-farm licence – granted by MPI – to farm certain listed species.

Marine aquaculture

Marine aquaculture is mainly managed under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) which promotes sustainable management of natural resources.

Under the RMA:

  • regional councils are responsible for planning and managing aquaculture in their coastal area between high tide and the 12 nautical mile limit
  • any new marine farm must have a resource consent from the regional council.

National direction for aquaculture

MPI is leading the national direction for aquaculture project with support from the Ministry for the Environment and the Department of Conservation.

The project aims to improve national consistency in the management of existing marine aquaculture, using tools available under the RMA – a national environmental standard and New Zealand coastal policy statement.

National direction will help councils and industry:

  • manage re-consenting of existing marine farms more consistently and efficiently across the country
  • enable better use of existing marine farms
  • improve environmental outcomes
  • increase community confidence in the industry.

The project is an important part of the government's strategy to support sustainable aquaculture growth.

Agencies are working with an expert reference group to provide advice on the content and scope of national direction. The reference group includes members from local government, the aquaculture industry, Te Ohu Kaimoana, and environmental organisations.

Public consultation on national direction will occur in mid-2017, and decisions finalised in 2018.

2011 changes to aquaculture legislation

Legislation was changed in 2011 to encourage sustainable aquaculture development and streamline planning and approvals for marine aquaculture. Changes were made to the:

  • Resource Management Act 1991
  • Aquaculture Reform (Repeals and Transitional Provisions) Act 2004
  • Fisheries Act 1996
  • Māori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act 2004.

Prior to this, under the Aquaculture Reform Act, farmers could apply to set up new farms only in aquaculture management areas (AMAs) established by councils. AMAs were introduced as a management tool, but were found to complicate and delay approvals for new aquaculture. The 2011 changes simplified the approval process by removing the need for AMAs.

Overview of legislative changes [PDF, 736 KB]

Māori commercial aquaculture claims settlement

The Māori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act 2004 allowed for settlement of Māori claims to commercial aquaculture by allocating 20% of AMAs. Since the need for AMAs was removed from aquaculture legislation in 2011, settlement has instead been done through regional agreements.

Biosecurity legislation

MPI works under the Biosecurity Act 1993, to reduce the risk of harmful pests and diseases getting into New Zealand – including our waters. The Act also gives MPI powers to deal with harmful organisms that manage to get into New Zealand.

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Who to contact

If you have questions about aquaculture law and policy, email

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