The new Motiti Protection Area rules are now in effect. This means you can no longer take marine life from the three areas making up the Motiti Protection Area. You can anchor in the area so long as you follow the guidelines which are specified below.

The new rules will apply to everyone equally, including customary, recreational and commercial fishers, divers, those spearfishing, even if you’re catch and releasing.

The new rules have been introduced to protect indigenous biodiversity and acknowledge the significant marine, landscape and cultural values in the area. Those three areas comprise of Ōtaiti (Astrolabe Reef); including Te Papa (Brewis Shoal), Te Porotiti, and Okarapu Reef, Motuhaku Island (Schooner Rocks) and Motunau Island (Plate Island).

Motiti Protection Area

The reef systems off the coast of Motiti Island support a large range of plants and animals including fish and shellfish. In 2018 the Environment Court released an interim decision that found the outstanding attributes and values of these reef systems needed better protection.

On 24 April 2020, the Environment Court released its final decision which directs Bay of Plenty Regional Council to implement new rules within its Regional Coastal Environment Plan to protect three reef systems near Motiti Island and complete scientific monitoring to inform future integrated marine management solutions.

The new rules will create three protection areas (called the Motiti Protection Areas) around Motiti Island where the taking of all plants and animals (including fish and shellfish) would be prohibited due to their significant marine biodiversity, landscape and cultural values. Those three areas comprise of Ōtaiti (Astrolabe Reef); including Te Papa (Brewis Shoal), Te Porotiti, and O karapu Reef, Motuhaku Island (Schooner Rocks) and Motunau Island (Plate Island).

View the full Environment Court approved map of the Motiti Protection Area.

The Regional Council will be conducting monitoring at the Motiti Protection Areas and wider Motiti Natural Environment Management Area to determine if the protections put in place by the court are achieving the desired biodiversity outcomes. Are the Marine Protection Areas working?

The BOPRC Science Plan sets down priority work areas, including Toitū te Takutai moana – Marine and Coastal, which includes a number of priority areas in relation to the Motiti Protection Area:

  • Develop cultural health indicators (in conjunction with tangata whenua specialist advisory group) to assist with and work with tangata whenua on effective implementation
  • Understanding present and future threats to coastal ecosystems and biodiversity values with a strong focus on climate change, and development of management options.
  • Understanding and monitoring ecosystem and biodiversity values in the marine coastal zone to assess potential adverse impacts by fishing activities.

The science plan also identifies resourcing, capability and relationships as requirements to deliver this work. It sets out the importance of working with research providers, local iwi and to include external specialist expertise when needed for areas such as broadscale habitat mapping.

Once confirmed, the first step in monitoring these areas is to establish current day condition – how does the ecology of these reefs look today, before the reefs are protected. This data will then be used for years to come as a reference point against which to assess changes in biodiversity that occur following the prohibition of the removal of flora and fauna, and assess the success of these fishing closures.

In addition, during the Environment Court hearings a wide range of scientific and cultural knowledge was shared with the courts showing the decline of environmental and cultural health in the Motiti area. Traditional mātauranga Māori knowledge held by tangata whenua represents a longer timeframe of changes observed in the marine environment, compared to the current day state that our monitoring will provide. Some of the questions that we will be asking with our monitoring will include: what types of habitats are represented in the protection areas (e.g. kelp forest, sponge gardens, kina barrens) and what biodiversity do the reefs and habitats support (e.g. fish species).

Additional monitoring based on mātauranga Māori will be codeveloped with tangata whenua. We are also investigating ways for recreational divers to monitor and collect their own information to support the wider monitoring programme.

Continued monitoring using the same methods over time will allow us to measure changes that may occur because of the protections. For example, the changes in fish numbers or the biodiversity associated with kelp forests. Ultimately, this will tell us if the Motiti Protection Areas are protecting and enhancing biodiversity.

This type of monitoring involves observing the natural environment, measuring key components (in this case biodiversity and habitat) and conducting analyses to determine how things are changing over time. Tools marine scientists may use include scuba diving equipment, cameras, drones, and quadrats (set 1 m2 areas) to monitor selected areas and species, as indicators of the state of the entire study area.

This is a unique and complex case, established by the Environment Court. As a result, there has not been specific public consultation, as the proposed protection areas were not part of the Regional Coastal Environment Plan when the last scheduled review and public consultation took place in 2015.

We are committed to providing clarity around what the outcome of this complex legal case means for our community and will be working with tāngata whenua and all stakeholders to make sure the new rules are well understood.

The case has been through multiple Courts, addressed complex legal matters and created case law. The Court of Appeal recognised the overlapping responsibilities between the Resource Management Act and the Fisheries Act and provided clarity around how the two acts can work together. We have been directed to collaborate with other government agencies and tāngata whenua on future marine management solutions and this will provide better outcomes for the environment and community.

We are looking forward to working collectively with the Ministry of Primary Industries, Department of Conservation, Department of Internal Affairs, tāngata whenua and other key stakeholders on how to protect the outstanding attributes and values of these reef systems going forward. As mentioned above, collaboration may lead to an earlier plan change to consider a range of marine management tools to protect the existing high values of the area. It is worth noting that any earlier plan changes need to be funded and underpinned with new scientific evidence to support any proposed changes or new management tools, and the community will have an opportunity to participate through public consultation.

We do understand people's frustration with how this unique decision has come about and any future process will include public consultation, run by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and submissions will be invited to provide further depth to the discussions.

Anchoring guidelines

You can anchor on the reefs so long as you follow the safe guidelines which aim to help prevent damage to the reefs.

  • Use moorings where available (note that there is a mooring buoy at astrolabe).
  • When you are anchoring, only do so at 15-20m depth; this will ensure that you minimise the risk of damaging sensitive biodiversity.
  • Only anchor in calm conditions ( <10knots wind, <1m swell). If you’re at Motunau, choose a location that is sheltered from the wind and swell on the day.
  • Choose the right anchoring kit for your location and vessel – for the Motiti reefs this means a grapnel anchor (best for rock), with the right weight and chain for your vessel.
  • Please register your trips; this will allow us to have a good understanding of how many people are out there enjoying the dive sites, and allow us to monitor the reefs to ensure that anchoring is not resulting in any damage to the reef biodiversity.
  • Once you’re in the water enjoying the wonderful marine ecosystems, remember to maintain buoyancy, and avoid interfering with any flora or fauna.


Map coordinates for marine GPS or chart plotter

There are a variety of ways to view or download the coordinates for the new Motiti Protection Area.

To manually enter the coordinates into your GPS/chart plotter (latitude and longitude format), refer to the list of GPS waypoints below.

To download the coordinates onto your GPS/chart plotter (.gpx file format), select the GPS waypoints and/or GPS trackline files listed below. For support on how to update your device or card reader please refer to the relevant instructions.

Alternatively, to view an interactive map of the area or if your GPS/chart plotter requires a shapefile or Geojson file type please visit our Bay of Plenty Maps website.

Before entering the coordinates, please ensure your GPS/chart plotter has been set to the following format: DDD°MM.MMM.

Because the Motiti Protection Area is made up of three areas, the best way to capture this data is to create a route for each area. The waypoints are as follows:

ID---- Latitude      Longitude     

MPA1 1 S37°31.453' E176°24.990' 
MPA1 2 S37°31.614' E176°26.523' 
MPA1 3 S37°34.887' E176°25.528' 
MPA1 4 S37°36.043' E176°21.705' 
MPA1 5 S37°35.483' E176°21.003' 
MPA1 6 S37°34.809' E176°20.762'

MPA2 1 S37°35.197' E176°31.670' 
MPA2 2 S37°35.803' E176°33.084' 
MPA2 3 S37°37.287' E176°31.820'
MPA2 4 S37°36.978' E176°30.909' 
MPA2 5 S37°36.482' E176°30.608' 
MPA2 6 S37°35.904' E176°30.719' 

MPA3 1 S37°38.901' E176°34.113' 
MPA3 2 S37°40.317' E176°35.266'
MPA3 3 S37°40.999' E176°34.385' 
MPA3 4 S37°41.248' E176°32.414'
MPA3 5 S37°41.087' E176°30.824'
MPA3 6 S37°40.170' E176°31.027'

harbourmaster boat

11 August 2021

Motiti Protection Area now in place

The Motiti Protection Area is now in place, meaning people can no longer take any kind of marine life from the three offshore reef areas surrounding Motiti Island.

fish at motiti

4 May 2021

New Motiti Protection Area effective from 11 August

From 11 August you can no longer anchor on, or take any marine life from, the three reefs making up the Motiti Protection Area.

motiti sea life

1 March 2021

Motiti Protection Area rules signed off by the Minister of Conservation

The Minister of Conservation has approved the Bay of Plenty Regional Coastal Environment Plan.

motiti protection area map

29 April 2020

Environment Court approves Motiti Protection Areas

The final decision on the proposed Motiti Protection Areas was released by the Environment Court on Friday afternoon.

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24 Oct 2019


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