Our Commitment to Antarctica and the Southern Ocean
New Zealand is committed to Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.
We value peace, security, and effective governance in Antarctica, and we have significant and enduring environmental, scientific, conservation, reputational and economic interests.
The statement of New Zealand’s Commitment to Antarctica and the Southern Ocean tells the story of why and how we are involved in Antarctica, reflecting New Zealand values and principles.
This Commitment statement was finalised following a public outreach process, and replaces the previous 2002 Statement of New Zealand’s Strategic Interests in Antarctica.
New Zealand’s Commitment to Antarctica and the Southern Ocean
Antarctica has intrinsic value as a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science¹. New Zealand, guided by manaakitanga2, is committed to preserving and protecting Antarctica and the Southern Ocean³ for present and future generations.
New Zealand’s environment is connected to Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. We prioritise the environmental protection of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean; we value healthy and productive ecosystems; and we are committed to protecting biodiversity. We will:
- Follow environmental best practice in our activities in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.
- Advocate for the establishment, protection and management of representative special areas4 in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.
- Take precautionary and ecosystem approaches5 to the conservation and sustainable management of living marine resources in the Southern Ocean, particularly in the Ross Sea, supporting strong environmental standards and sustainable economic benefits, and contributing to scientific understanding.
- Be an international leader in efforts to eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the Southern Ocean.
Antarctica is an essential part of understanding global environmental systems, and is uniquely valuable for scientific research6. We are committed to promoting and collaborating on scientific research of the highest standards. We will:
- Support, lead and share scientific research7 that increases understanding of the interaction between global systems and Antarctica, and advances New Zealand’s climate change policies and capability to respond to change.
- Be a leader in research in the Ross Sea region Marine Protected Area8.
- Ensure Scott Base9 is an effective and sustainable10 facility, providing support for the safe conduct of excellent scientific research.
Antarctica is part of New Zealand’s heritage, and future. As the gateway to the Ross Sea region we uphold New Zealand’s role in Antarctic exploration, scientific discovery and collaboration. We will:
- Celebrate New Zealand’s connection with Antarctica and the Southern Ocean; honouring our linkages through scientific research, environmental protection, conservation, heritage11 and logistical support12.
- Strengthen Christchurch’s position as the international gateway13 to the Ross Sea region, ensuring we provide high-quality services to, and collaboration with, other nations.
- Maintain air, maritime and terrestrial assets14 capable of operating in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.
New Zealand values a peaceful, secure and safe region. We support the Antarctic Treaty principles and strive to maintain a peaceful, nuclear free and protected Antarctica. We will:
- Actively engage with our Antarctic partners to sustain a strong and effective governance framework under the Antarctic Treaty system15.
- Develop and implement international rules to ensure the comprehensive protection of the Antarctic, ensuring its value as a place for peace and scientific research is prioritised, the impacts of human activity are limited, and safety is promoted16.
1 This description of Antarctica comes from the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty which Antarctic Treaty parties agreed in 1991 https://www.ats.aq/e/ep.htm (external link).
3 For the purposes of this text the terms “Antarctica”, “Antarctic” and “Antarctica and the Southern Ocean” generally refer to the region south of 60 degrees latitude, including the Antarctic continent. This definition reflects the coverage provided in the Antarctic Treaty (1959) https://www.ats.aq/e/ats.htm (external link). Additionally, when relevant to marine living resources, the Convention Area described by the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (1980) is applicable https://www.ccamlr.org/en/organisation/convention-area (external link).
4 Annex V (Protected Areas), Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (1991) https://www.ats.aq/e/ep.htm (external link).
5 The Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (1980) (CCAMLR) governs activities related to Antarctic marine living resources. https://www.ccamlr.org/en/organisation/camlr-convention-text (external link) The objective of the Convention is “… the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources. For the purposes of this Convention, the term ‘conservation’ includes rational use. Any harvesting … shall be conducted in accordance with … principles of conservation” (Article II). The CCAMLR objective and conservation principles are given effect through research, scientific analysis, and implementation of conservation measures (Article IX)
6 The Antarctic Treaty system arose out of the International Geophysical Year (1957/58) which promoted international scientific collaboration in various earth sciences. The Antarctic Treaty (1959) provides for the continuation of freedom of scientific investigation in Antarctica and international cooperation in such science. Articles II and III of the Antarctic Treaty https://www.ats.aq/e/ats.htm (external link) The Protocol on Environmental Protocol reiterated the value of Antarctica as an area for scientific research to understand the global environment (Article 3.1) https://www.ats.aq/e/ep.htm (external link)
7 Visit http://www.antarcticanz.govt.nz/ (external link) to learn how Antarctica NZ carries out New Zealand's activities in Antarctica supporting world leading science and environmental protection. Visit https://www.antarcticscienceplatform.org.nz/ (external link) to learn about the Antarctic Science funding platform.
8 Information on the Ross Sea region Marine Protected Area (MPA) can be found here: https://www.mfat.govt.nz/en/environment/antarctica/antarctic-haven/) The MPA was established under CCAMLR Conservation Measure 91-05 (2016) https://www.ccamlr.org/en/measure-91-05-2016 (external link)
9 Visit http://www.antarcticanz.govt.nz/scott-base/ (external link) to learn more about Scott Base.
11 Visit https://nzaht.org/ (external link) to learn about the work of the Antarctic Heritage Trust
12 Visit http://www.antarcticanz.govt.nz/ (external link) to learn about New Zealand’s activities in Antarctica. Visit http://www.nzdf.mil.nz/operations/antarctica.htm (external link) to learn about logistical support provided by NZDF
13 Visit https://www.christchurchnz.com/christchurch-the-gateway-to-antarctica/ (external link) to learn more about Christchurch’s Antarctic connections. Find Christchurch’s Antarctic Gateway strategy here https://www.christchurchnz.org.nz/media/8473/antarctic-strategy.pdf (external link)
14 Assets refers to resources which enable New Zealand to operate in the Antarctic and Southern Ocean, and include NZDF transport and logistic capabilities and Scott Base http://www.nzdf.mil.nz/downloads/pdf/public-docs/2018/strategic-defence-policy-statement-2018.pdf (external link)
15 The Antarctic Treaty system means “the Antarctic Treaty, the measures in effect under that Treaty, its associated separate international instruments in force and the measures in effect under those instruments” (Article 1(d) of the Protocol on Environmental Protection) https://www.ats.aq (external link). Key Antarctic Treaty agreements include the Antarctic Treaty (1959), the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (1980), and the Protocol on Environmental Protection (1991).
16 As a signatory to the conventions on International Civil Aviation (1944), Safety of Life at Sea (1974 – amended 2000), and Search and Rescue (1979), New Zealand has international obligations in respect of Search and Rescue, including in parts of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. New Zealand has an active interest in the development of the Polar Code which provides both recommendatory and mandatory provisions for vessels operating in Antarctic waters.