Conflict to Collaboration: New Zealand’s coastal management journey

Raewyn Peart1

1Policy Director, Environmental Defence Society, Auckland, New Zealand


New Zealand is a coastal nation with around 600 islands and 19,000 kilometres of coastline. Over the past 800 years, humans have fundamentally transformed the coastal environment. Since European settlement during the mid to late 1800s, most of the coast has been privatised and much has been developed into pastural agriculture and urban settlements. The 1950s and 1990s saw coastal development booms where New Zealanders built large numbers of holiday homes near the sea. More recently, the burgeoning national population is placing greater pressures on the coast through the rapid expansion of urban centres, and climate change impacts are putting many coastal properties at risk.

New Zealand’s response to these coastal management challenges has evolved considerably over the past 50 years. Initial responses focused on establishing reserve networks on land and later in the sea. Statutory recognition of the importance of protecting ‘natural character’ on the coast, when determining development proposals, was provided during the 1970s. The 1990s saw a stronger emphasis placed on ecological values, but coupled with the decentralisation of coastal management to local councils, this resulted in poor outcomes in many coastal areas. The 2000s has been a more promising period of experimentation and innovation in New Zealand’s coastal management journey. New approaches which have been applied include using collaborative planning processes, establishing co-governance bodies with iwi (Māori tribes), undertaking regional marine spatial planning and creaing legal personhood for nature. The recent election of a reformist centre-left government will likely create further opportunities for positive change.


As Policy Director, Raewyn currently heads EDS’s environmental policy think-tank group. She has over 20 years professional experience in environmental law and policy having worked as a resource management lawyer and policy adviser to business, government and the not-for-profit sector.

For more than D decade, Raewyn’s work has focused on landscape protection, coastal development and marine management in New Zealand. She has written numerous papers, research reports and guidance material on these issues. Raewyn has published major books on coastal development (Castles in the Sand: What’s Happening to the New Zealand Coast?), marine mammal protection (Dolphins of Aotearoa: Living with Dolphins in New Zealand – which was shortlisted for the New Zealand Royal Society Science Book Prizeand environmental change in the Hauraki Gulf marine area (The Story of the Hauraki Gulf – a coffee table-sized book now on its 3rd print run). She has been a leader in promoting the introduction of marine spatial planning to New Zealand and was a member of the collaborative Stakeholder Working Group which successfully prepared the first marine spatial plan in New Zealand for the Hauraki Gulf.

Raewyn was co-winner of the 2013 Resource Management Law Association Publications Award (for Caring for Our Coast: An EDS Guide to Managing Coastal Development), and recipient of the 2016 Holdaway Award for leadership in and around the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park and the 2017 Wyland Foundation Dive New Zealand Magazine Recognition Award. She is a keen sailor, snorkeller, snowboarder and photographer.