New Zealand

Spill Notification Point

Rescue Coordination Centre NZ
Avalon Business Centre
Percy Cameron Street
PO Box 30050
Lower Hutt

Tel: +64 4 577 8030 (24 hr)

Fax: +64 4 577 8041

Or notify the appropriate regional council

Competent National Authority

Maritime New Zealand
Level 11, 1 Grey Street Wellington 6011

Tel: +64 4 473 0111
Fax: +64 4 494 1263

Marine Pollution Response Service
755 Te Atatu Road PO Box 45-209 Waitakere, Auckland 0651

Tel: +64 9 834 3908
Fax: +64 9 834 3907

Response Arrangements

Maritime New Zealand (MNZ), formerly the Maritime Safety Authority of New Zealand, has responsibility for all forms of marine emergency including oil pollution. The Maritime Transport Act 1994 (MTA) places a requirement on MNZ to produce a National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP) and develop a Marine Oil Spill Response Strategy that sets out national policy.

The NCP describes the national marine response organisation and procedures, and provides information on response resources, clean-up techniques, and administrative and operational procedures. The Plan is officially reviewed every three years. MNZ produces special area contingency plans where necessary, such as the Fiordland plan.  These are developed where an area is of such environmental significance, or has such complex response issues, that it is deemed necessary to address contingency planning as a discrete entity.   The MTA requires that ships have response plans, as per MARPOL 73/78, and the owners and/or managers of all coastal oil handling facilities must also develop and maintain both a marine oil spill contingency plan and an operational response capability. Regional councils also maintain contingency plans.

New Zealand’s response capability is maintained (and developed) through partnerships between MNZ, regional councils, the oil industry and overseas agencies. New Zealand has adopted a 3-tier approach to marine oil spill preparedness and response, as provided for in the MTA.  Industry (offshore, oil transfer sites and shipping) is required to plan for their own risk and respond to their own spills (Tier 1); regional councils (Tier 2) respond to spills beyond the capability of industry within New Zealand’s Territorial Sea (22km); MNZ, executed through its Marine Pollution Response Service (MPRS), responds to all spills within the Territorial Sea and EEZ which are beyond the capability of industry and regional councils (Tier 3), including the offshore sub-Antarctic and Kermadec islands. MNZ has developed contracts with external parties for the provision of specialised services such as oiled wildlife response, waste management, trajectory modelling and aerial capability. If the scale of an incident is beyond the nation’s domestic capability, arrangements are in place to secure overseas assistance. 

The Rescue Coordination Centre of New Zealand is the first point of contact for oil spills (both actual and probable) and is responsible for the promulgation of this information to the appropriate authorities and the subsequent facilitation of communication with the vessels involved. The MNZ Oil Spill Duty Officer provides 24/7, 365 days a year contact, support and liaison.

New Zealand has a team of designated National On-Scene Commanders (NOSC) available on a duty roster basis, who when called upon are appointed to lead and coordinate the response to any large-scale oil spill within New Zealand’s waters.  The National Response Team (NRT) comprises trained responders from MNZ, regional councils and the maritime industry ready and able to support oil spills responses around the country. Memoranda of understanding are in place with other government organisations (for example, the Department of Conservation and New Zealand Defence Force) that will provide personnel to assist as required during a tier 3 response.

New Zealand’s marine oil spill command and control system is compatible with the country’s Coordinated Incident Management System (CIMS) which is used by a wide range of government agencies for any type of emergency response, and is particularly tailored to assist inter-agency collaboration. 

In light of the significance of the marine environment to Maori communities, MNZ seeks to work collaboratively with local Maori during a response to ensure their concerns are acknowledged and addressed. Maori representation and input is also welcomed on the Oil Pollution Advisory Committee (OPAC). The OPAC appointed by the Minister of Transport and comprising interested parties from government and industry provides MNZ with advice and support in both planning and response.

Response Policy

The framework for New Zealand’s response policy is outlined in an oil spill response strategy document, which is subject to a five year formal review process. Accordingly, priority is given to preventing oil reaching sensitive coastal environments.  The options for on-water response are: natural dispersion through wind and wave action; application of dispersants; deflection or containment with booms; in-situ burning; collection and removal.  All New Zealand marine waters are designated as pre-approved for dispersant application, unless specifically excluded in either a regional plan or the national plan.  In all cases, the NOSC has the authority to use dispersant even in excluded areas, if this will lead to the greatest net environmental benefit.  Any decision is based on the MNZ Guidelines for the Use of Oil Spill Dispersants. Once oil has reached the shore, the primary options for shoreline response are: pre-cleaning (to improve access and reduce waste); mechanical and/or manual clean-up; natural recovery and bioremediation.  In relation to shoreline response, a Shoreline Clean-up Assessment Technique (SCAT) approach has been adopted.  This involves delineating the impacted coast into homogenous segments and gathering data on each to assist prioritisation. 



The national equipment stockpile is located at MNZ’s Marine Pollution Response Service warehouse in Te Atatu, Auckland.  This include transfer pumps, barges, fenders, booms and skimmers and is palletised for quick mobilisation by road or air transport. There are also over 20 equipment stockpiles around the country, predominantly at all the major ports. Each region has the equipment necessary to deal with minor spills and to mount a credible first response to more significant incidents.  MNZ holds stocks of dispersants approved in New Zealand. Additional response equipment can be brought in from a number of international locations, including Australia, Singapore and the UK, if required.


Oil companies and industry within New Zealand are required to maintain equipment consistent with their operations and risk, and to respond to a Tier 1 event. Equipment for Tier 2 and Tier 3 incidents is provided from the government stockpiles that are funded by a levy imposed on the industry.

Previous Spill Experience

The most significant maritime incident experienced by New Zealand in recent years was the grounding of the containership RENA in October 2011, off Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty. The incident resulted in a bunker spill of more than 300 tonnes, the loss of numerous containers to sea, and a prolonged clean-up and salvage operation. A wildlife response, coordinated by Massey University captured and treated many oiled penguins and other impacted wildlife. Other significant incidents include the DON WONG 529 (1998), a Korean fishing vessel which ran aground off Stewart Island in the south of New Zealand.  Out of the 400 tonnes of automotive gas oil on board, 310 tonnes escaped and either dispersed naturally or was dispersed with chemicals and the other 90 tonnes was recovered by salvors.  In 2000 SEA FRESH 1, another fishing vessel, foundered at the Chatham Islands with the loss of 60 tonnes of diesel.  Log ship JODY F MILLENNIUM (2002) grounded in Gisbourne spilling approximately 25 tonnes of fuel oil which affected about 8km of coastline. 


Prevention & Safety

MARPOL Annexes

Spill Response



'69 '76 '92 '92Fund

* not yet in force

Regional & Bilateral Agreements

  • A Memorandum of Understanding exists with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority that provides for cooperation with exercises, training, response equipment and expertise.
  • New Zealand is party to the Noumea Convention (with the states of the South Pacific). This obliges Parties, inter alia, to endeavour to take all appropriate measures to prevent, reduce and control pollution from any source.
  • New Zealand is also a member of the South Pacific Regional Environment programme, with regional obligations to Pacific Island nations under the Pacific Ocean Pollution Prevention programme (PACPOL). 

Date of issue: October 2018

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