Wellington Scoop

Regional Council wants efforts to reduce pollution from big ships

Press Release – Greater Wellington Regional Council
The natural attributes of Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington Harbour) are attractive to tourists and commerce alike, but emissions remain after the vessels have headed off into the sunset.

Therefore Greater Wellington Regional Council is calling on the government to endorse the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) so we can regulate to reduce the pollution coming from ships in Wellington Harbour.

“Pollution from ship emissions is a significant issue that we must address urgently,” says Councillor and Chair of GW’s Environment Committee Sue Kedgley. “We need to join other nations in reducing the harmful pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides which adversely affect the health of populations and our marine environment.”

GW’s responsibilities include air, water, and discharges to land and the coastal marine area which is why the Council has made a submission to the Ministry of Transport to support New Zealand’s accession to Annex VI (attached). In our submission we point out that significant gains could be made in environmental quality if we could regulate to require ships to use more refined fuels and technologies like scrubbing systems to reduce their emissions.

Shipping is largest source of sulphur dioxide in our region. Stack plumes from shipping are clearly visible and extensive on calm days. The number of log ships is increasing and container ship numbers rebounded following the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake, though not to the same level. Cruise ship frequency has increased significantly. Car carriers and tankers are likely to be about the same however the largest number of vessel movements are the five Cook Strait ferries. The overall increase in the number and size of ships moving on the harbour inevitably leads to greater fuel consumption and more emissions. According to the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ’s report Our air 2018, “the size of the median vessel visiting New Zealand nearly doubled between 2007 and 2013”.

Marine life

We share our harbour with a number of other species. Replacing heavy fuel oils with higher sulphur levels with lighter, more refined fuels and diesel that are less persistent in the environment in the event of a spill reduces the pollution risk from an incident and the clean-up operation required.


A national regulation would be more efficient and effective than a resource management plan or processes on a region-by-region basis for discharge resource consents for shipping.

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  1. Gillian Tompsett, 14. February 2019, 22:28

    That’s all good and well but people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

    Whilst neighbourhoods like Karori, Kelburn, Te Aro, Mt Victoria, Hataitai, Kilbirnie, Miramar, Strathmore and Seatoun are destined to become the dumping ground for ageing, low-standard Euro buses for the next 10 years (the length of the DAU contract), this is hypocrisy of the highest order.

    Wellington needs to sort out the source of pollution condoned by the GWRC, in its own back yard first.

  2. DonP, 15. February 2019, 11:28

    GWRC have suddenly become aware and vocal about the pollution of visiting ships but are they aware and vocal about the pollution of their own buses? They are doing absolutely nothing.

  3. Neil Douglas, 15. February 2019, 13:54

    I’m afraid it does not stop with MARPOL as cruise liners seem to have been getting around air pollution rules.


    And the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has written “If [Regional Councils] have not already done so, to assess the environmental risks from cruise ships in their region, and initiate or strengthen any systems required to
    address these risks.¨And the PCE was writing way back in 2003. So what exactly has GWRC done over the last 16 years?


  4. michael, 15. February 2019, 17:03

    This seems like a publicity stunt to try and convince us they really care about our environment.
    Living in the inner city we have become exposed to far more pollutants and noise since we lost the trolley buses and gained all Auckland’s 2nd-hand diesel buses, so where is the concern about that GWRC?