New law helps secure New Zealand’s maritime domain

Foreign Affairs Minister Hon Nanaia Mahuta. Photo: File.

Legislation that will help prevent serious criminal offending at sea, including trafficking of humans, drugs, wildlife and arms, has passed its third reading in Parliament on Tuesday Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta has announced.  

“Today [Tuesday May 17] is a milestone in allowing us to respond to the increasingly dynamic and complex maritime security environment facing Aotearoa New Zealand,” says Mahuta.

“Through the passing of this legislation, we will be better equipped to keep our maritime environment secure against threats like drugs trafficking, wildlife trafficking and human trafficking.

“Our extensive maritime domain and how we secure it, is critical to our national security and prosperity, especially given our ever increasing dependence on the sea for trade,” says Mahuta.

The Maritime Powers Act gives Police, the New Zealand Defence Force, Customs and the Department of Conservation the power to stop, board, search and detain ships in international waters, including New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone, where they have reasonable grounds to suspect a serious criminal offence has been committed.

It also enables the detention and arrest of suspects and the return of a ship to New Zealand to be searched for evidence.

“The Maritime Powers Act establishes a comprehensive regime that will enhance our ability to enforce New Zealand’s criminal law in international waters. It brings a consistency to our domestic arrangements that has been previously lacking,” says Mahuta.

“The powers in the Act are consistent with existing powers under New Zealand law, including the Bill of Rights Act and with New Zealand’s rights and obligations at international law.

“I would like to thank everyone who made submissions on the Bill and the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee for their recommended changes to improve and strengthen our maritime environment,” says Mahuta.

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