New Zealand’s geographic isolation means we have many unique plants, birds and animals and these are a priority for us to protect.

As well as species conservation, we also take care of the fourth largest marine territory in the world. Marine conservation is important and while whaling was once a significant industry in New Zealand, today our focus is on protecting these great marine mammals.

At the same time, our economy is largely dependent on introduced species (eg, dairy, apples, pine trees) and we rely on other foreign genetic resources such as insects and fungi to manage introduced pest populations.

Striking a balance between our conservation, economic and cultural needs domestically and on the world stage is challenging. MFAT represents New Zealand in global talks, alongside other agencies like the Department of Conservation (DOC), the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the Ministry of Māori Development Te Puni Kōkiri.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

Biological diversity is declining around the world. While some want to see it conserved and protected, others have a desire to use it to support livelihoods, commercial development and research. To find a balance, countries are working together through the CBD. New Zealand is one of 196 parties to this convention and we have our own corresponding Biodiversity Strategy.

The CBD considers all living things from three perspectives:

  • preserving and conserving species
  • using biodiversity in sustainable ways
  • sharing the benefits of genetic resources.

It has two protocols:

  1. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which governs the movement of living modified organisms between countries. We became party to this in 2005.
  2. The Nagoya Protocol, which focuses on sharing the benefits that come from using genetic resources, and traditional knowledge. We're yet to become party to this protocol.

Read New Zealand's Biodiversity Strategy (external link)

Other international treaties

The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals

New Zealand is one of 11 countries to have signed the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses
New Zealand is one of 11 countries to have signed the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses

This agreement, also known as the Bonn Convention, aims to preserve birds, marine and land based species that traverse national boundaries as part of their normal migration. New Zealand became party to the agreement in 1999.

We’re also one of 11 countries to have signed the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels, developed as a result of the Bonn Convention. Parties to the agreement are working to address the high number of these birds being drowned or injured after getting caught unintentionaly by fishing boats. 

Read more about the Bonn Convention (external link) 

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

This international agreement protects endangered wild plants and animals from unregulated, unsustainable trade. Importing and exporting countries share responsibility. New Zealand joined CITES and introduced corresponding legislation, the Trade in Endangered Species Act, in 1989.

Find out more about CITES (external link)

The Convention on Wetlands

This convention, also known as the Ramsar Convention, recognises the significance of wetlands as among the world’s most productive environments, and essential to the supply of fresh water. The convention encourages international cooperation on the conservation of wetlands, and suggests how countries can take action.

New Zealand joined in 1976 and has six Ramsar sites: Whangamarino and the Kopuatai Peat Dome in the Waikato, the Firth of Thames, the mouth of the Manawatu River and its estuary, Farewell Spit in Golden Bay, and the Awarua Wetland in Invercargill.

Read more about Ramsar and its work (external link)

Marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction

New Zealand is actively participating in negotiations towards a new treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (or BBNJ for short). Areas beyond national jurisdiction include the sea column beyond countries’ EEZs and the seabed beyond countries’ continental shelves. The new BBNJ treaty will sit under the framework of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and is intended to complement the wider existing oceans governance framework. It will focus on four main areas:
• Marine genetic resources, including questions on the sharing of benefits
• Measures such as area-based management tools, including marine protected areas
• Environmental impact assessments
• Capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology
New Zealand sees these negotiations as an opportunity to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction and to fill gaps in the international legal framework that governs it.
Find out more about the negotiations (external link)