Our role

Our job is to keep Northland’s harbours and lakes safe for everyone to enjoy.

What we do

We have a Regional Harbourmaster and a maritime team who:

  • carry out regular harbour patrols to make sure harbour users are sticking to the rules (they can issue an instant fine if you are breaking a harbour bylaw. Find out more at www.nrc.govt.nz/safeboating)
  • make sure over 300 navigation aids are kept in good condition
  • respond to incidents reported by the public
  • respond to marine pollution incidents like oil spills
  • issue mooring licences – find out more at www.nrc.govt.nz/mooringsandmarinas
  • promote harbour safety
  • help pilot ships safely into our harbours.

Harbour safety management

Vessels that visit our ports and harbours must comply with safety, security and environmental protection regulations. These regulations apply to cargo and passenger vessels, fishing boats, charter boats and all other commercial and recreational craft.

There is a New Zealand Port and Harbour Marine Safety Code, produced by Maritime New Zealand, which provides measures for the safe management of ships in ports and harbours. It also includes measures to prevent serious harm to people and protection for the marine environment.

Our maritime team has established a Harbour Safety Management System for Northland harbours to ensure we comply with this code.

Find out more about the New Zealand Port and Harbour Marine Safety Code from the Maritime New Zealand website  

Responding to oil spills

A steady stream of tankers comes through Whangārei Harbour to Marsden Point Oil Refinery. This shipping activity puts us all at risk if a major oil spill occurs.

Deploying equipment during an oil spill exercise.Oil spill exercise in action.Our team has prepared an Oil Spill Contingency Plan and holds regular training exercises to make sure the right people and equipment can be put into action quickly.

The strategy is to contain and clean up as much oil as possible before it reaches our precious shoreline, fishing grounds and shellfish beds.

We have a large amount of oil spill equipment housed at Marsden Point to help us do the job. We maintain the equipment but it belongs to Maritime New Zealand.

Our team responds to all oil spills. When an oil spill is too large to deal with locally, Maritime New Zealand staff will take over the clean-up with help from us.



Buoys and beacons

We look after more than 300 navigation aids around the region, to keep them in good condition.

They’re checked at least once every six years, though many are checked more frequently (eg. if issues are reported or lights aren’t working). You can help keep Northland’s navigation aids in good shape by reporting issues to our 24/7 Hotline: 0800 504 639.

We follow good practice to ensure that marine pests aren’t spread via the navigation aids – for example, while they’re not suitable to be antifouled, marine growth is checked before it’s removed and disposed of safely on land.

Report a problem

Our region has the largest coastline in New Zealand, and we need your help to keep it in the best state possible.

If you spot something wrong on one of our harbours or Northland’s many lakes, please call our 24/7 Environmental Hotline on 0800 504 639.  

Things we want to know about include:

  • suspected sewage discharges
  • oil spills
  • chemical spills
  • navigation light breakdowns
  • navigation hazards such as floating logs in channels
  • dangerous boating
  • maritime bylaw infringements
  • suspected pollution of any sort.

Working together

We also work with the following local and national maritime agencies to keep our harbours, coastline and lakes safe:

Coastguard Northern Region

  • vessel assistance
  • saving lives at sea
  • trip reports
  • medical emergency

Find out more: www.coastguard.org.nz

Maritime New Zealand

  • accident investigation
  • national oil spill response
  • vessel licensing

Find out more: www.maritimenz.govt.nz

Emergency response

Our Harbourmaster will generally take the lead role in a maritime incident like a sinking, grounding, oil spill or collision.  The Harbourmaster will coordinate the other people that need to be involved.

Events on the harbour

We coordinate events on the water to ensure they don't clash, and that appropriate safety precautions have been taken. 

If you're planning an event, such as a race, speed trial or competition on the harbour, please call us or register your harbour or coast special event first.

The Navigation Safety Bylaw gives more information on what you need to do and how much notice we need.

Taharoa Domain (Kai Iwi Lakes)

For information on the use of the Taharoa Domain (Kai Iwi Lakes) for recreational purposes, please visit the Kaipara District Council website: www.kaipara.govt.nz 

Further information

Contact our Regional Harbourmaster at the Regional Council on 0800 002 004 or email [email protected]