Our Ocean

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In New Zealand you are never very far from the sea and the sea is a taonga. Our seas support more than 15,000 known species, many of these are found no where else in the world.

Life on Earth depends on the ocean.

The ocean is part of our lives – we may swim in it, sail on it or eat food from it. Even if we don't live by the ocean, it affects us all because it:

  • controls climate
  • supports life
  • wears away and creates land
  • gives us resources

Many people think of the sea floor as flat, but the sea bed has different landscapes just like we see on land. Hidden below the ocean are mountains, volcanoes, trenches, canyons, valleys and plains. This variety of landscapes supports many different marine organisms.

Our big blue backyard 

New Zealand is surrounded by the sea. The sea is our treasure/taonga. More than 75% of New Zealanders live within 10 km of the coast. Even if you live inland you are never further than a couple of hours drive from the sea.

We use the sea for recreation, gathering food and other resources, and for our own wellbeing. 

Our marine diversity

New Zealand's marine environment has a wide range of different plants and animals because:

  • It covers a wide area from subtropical to subantarctic
  • It sits above an active plate boundary
  • It is a long way away from other countries.

This means New Zealand has lots of different marine habitats and species. Our marine areas are not well studied. Less than 1% of our marine areas have been surveyed. More than 15,000 species have been found, and on average 7 new marine species are identified every two weeks. Scientists estimate that there may be as many as 65,000 marine species in New Zealand waters. Because we are a long way from other countries many of these species are endemic, which means they are not found anywhere else in the world.

Audio Maori keywords: 


How does the ocean affect you and your way of life?

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The Marine Environment

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New Zealand is surrounded by the sea and it is a taonga. Image: LEARNZ.

More than 75% of New Zealanders live within 10 kilometres of the coast. Image: LEARNZ.

Our oceans supports life, provides resources and controls climate. Image: LEARNZ.

Our sea supports a high level of biodiversity. Yet less than 1% of our marine environment has been surveyed. Image: LEARNZ.