Country Reports

With a population of 4.7 million people and an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the global top 10 in terms of size, New Zealand/Aotearoa is essentially a maritime nation. It also has a high proportion of renewable electricity supply already but it is highly dependent on imported transport energy. There is also limited demand for energy at present.

A recent review put out a call for better investment in marine technology and engineering, especially in the tertiary education sector:

  • Stevens, C., & O’Callaghan, J. (2015). When the holiday is over: being clever in New Zealand’s marine domain. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, 45(2), 89-94.

New Zealand has a well-developed underlying marine energy supply chain capability to support NZMEC marine energy fabrication and servicing activities. This is due to the country’s longstanding experience in a variety of relevant disciplines including hydro and wind power, offshore oil & gas, marine engineering and boatbuilding. Notable elements of New Zealand’s marine energy supply chain include:

  • Significant marine energy research capabilities and expertise within the Universities and government-funded research agencies.
  • Particular strengths arising from NZ’s renewables-based power sector, offshore oil & gas industry and onshore fabrication capabilities.
  • An advanced marine modelling capability, critical to the design and feasibility of project development.
  • Expertise in design, implementation, automation and control systems, arising from NZ’s experience in operating Cook Strait HVDC links.
  • World leading capability in grid management of electricity sourced from renewable energy generation, including network embedded generation.
  • The manufacture of advanced composite marine materials and structures best demonstrated by the yachts in the 2013 America’s Cup.


The NZ Government has the goal of 90% renewable electricity supply by 2025. Beyond this, the Government’s overarching goal is to grow New Zealand’s economy and deliver greater prosperity, security and opportunities for all New Zealanders. The Government has set four key priorities in this regard, with the Government’s principal economic goal, and second key priority, being to build a more competitive and productive economy:

  • The 2011-2021 NZ Energy Strategy places priority on diverse resource development, with particular focus on adoption of new renewable energy technologies under which, inter alia, the Government has a role in encouraging the swift uptake of these technologies in New Zealand and supporting the deployment of home grown energy technologies domestically and overseas.
  • Commercialisation and deployment of marine energy will help meet the goal of 90% renewable electricity supply by 2025.
  • The Government’s Foreign Investment Policy encourages permitted Greenfields investment.
  • New Zealand Aid Programme Strategic Plan 2012-2015 focuses on sustainable economic development in the Pacific, and a more targeted approach in Asia with renewable energy as a key enabler.

The NZ Environmental Protection Authority handles applications for marine activity offshore of the 12 nm limit under the Resource Management Act. A recent landmark case for resource exploitation went against the applicants serving notice on the high levels of certainty required around impacts (e.g. Inshore of 12 nm exploitation applications are heard by regional authorities.

There are limited opportunities for funding specifically for marine renewable energies since the closure of the Marine Energy Deployment Fund in 2012. The energy portfolio in the Government R&D funding ministry MBIE (Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment) has in the past funded wave energy device development projects and tidal array resource and design projects. A recent project funded by the investigator-led Marsden Fund on large array scaling and design has now come to a close (P.I. Ross Vennell, Univ. Otago).

The 2015 National Statement on Science Investment ( laid the foundation for a number of implementing activities in 2016 including the launch of the “new” Endeavour Fund. This funding instrument would accept proposals regarding development of marine energy initiatives in a range of “mission-led” configurations. The vision for 2025 will be supported by two main pillars or areas of focus where Government will concentrate its activity. These are impact and excellence.

It is vital that all parts of the system continue to strive for greater excellence and impact in the science undertaken, with our science being of the highest quality possible and most public investment having a clear line of sight to eventual impact.

A focus on impact does not mean a focus solely on close-to-market or end-user-driven research. Scientific discovery challenges, as well as supports, existing industries and practices, and both roles must be developed in a balanced way.

The new Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge ( aims to enhance use of New Zealand’s vast marine resources, while ensuring that our marine environment is understood, cared for, and used wisely for the benefit of all, now and in the future. This requires a new way of managing the many uses of our marine resources that combines the aspirations and experience of Māori, communities, and industry with the evidence of scientific research to transform New Zealand into a world leader in sustainable marine economic development. In 2016, the Challenge launched two calls for proposals with a partial focus on Blue Economy.

Key R&D Institutions and Relevant R&D Projects:


The New Zealand group led by Dr Ross Vennell has made significant advances in quantifying theoretical impacts of large turbine arrays.

This is enabling ideas around tuning and temporal sequencing of tuning to maximise energy extraction for minimum flow disturbance.

Vennell, R., Funke, S. W., Draper, S., Stevens, C., & Divett, T. (2015). Designing large arrays of tidal turbines: A synthesis and review. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 41, 454-472.


Flow disturbance from a modest array of turbines (Divett, Vennell and Stevens. “Optimization of multiple turbine arrays in a channel with tidally reversing flow by numerical modelling with adaptive mesh.” Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 371, no. 1985 (2013): 20120251)


A 2015 Business Case sought Government commitment to invest in the establishment of a marine energy testing facility, the New Zealand Marine Energy Centre (“NZMEC” or “the Centre”) located in the Wellington region. The balance of investment requirements would be provided as in-kind private sector funding from a multinational firm. NZMEC’s testing facilities will be located on up to four sites at Baring Head, Moa Point, Cape Terawhiti and Kapiti to provide ocean based pre-commercial scale testing services for wave and tidal energy device developers from nursery (prototype/pilot) through to full scale, grid connected devices. The JV will enable NZMEC to stand as a global centre of excellence for marine energy testing. The development is currently on hold awaiting investment.


AZURA Wave – testing in Hawaii. A prototype wave generator called Azura is supplying grid power to Hawaii, the first time such a feat has been officially verified, according to the US Department of Energy (DoE). This completed a year’s worth of testing in 2016.

More information at:

The initial technology development, called Wave Energy Technology New Zealand or WET-NZ, was conducted by Callaghan Innovation (formerly Industrial Research Limited), which is a New Zealand Crown Research Institute. Since development began in 2006, the technology has advanced from initial concept to open ocean pilot testing. Recognizing the potential of the US market, NWEI began collaborating with Callaghan to further develop and optimize the technology.

Since commencing operations in 2010, NWEI and its partners have successfully completed pilot scale projects in New Zealand and Oregon, and NWEI is now preparing for a grid connected demo project at the US Navy’s Wave Energy

Test Site at the Marine Corps Base Hawai’i. Unlike other wave energy technologies, Azura extracts energy from both the heave (vertical) and surge (horizontal) motion of the wave, producing power from the relative rotational motion between the hull and float. The Power Take Off (PTO) system is based on high pressure hydraulics and is located within the PowerPod.



The national marine energy advocacy group AWATEA (Aotearoa wave and tidal energy association) runs an annual meeting with international attendance. It was established in April 2006 to advocate for, assist and accelerate the development of the marine energy industry. It acts as an industry association with the following mission: “AWATEA will promote, aid and foster a vibrant and viable marine energy industry in New Zealand”. The association has the following objectives:

  • Promote the marine energy industry in New Zealand, including research, energy generation, marine fabrication and marine services;
  • Increase recognition and utilization of marine energy as another energy source in New Zealand’s supply portfolio;
  • Act as a centre for advocacy of marine energy, including lobbying, drawing up submissions to Government and representing the views of the marine energy industry;
  • Exchange information about the marine energy sector, to provide and publish statistics and informed commentary on issues affecting the uptake of marine energy in New Zealand;
  • Be a meeting place for marine energy industry participants;
  • Represent the New Zealand marine energy industry to national bodies, including Government agencies, non-governmental organizations and other industry bodies and liaise with other international bodies.

It ran its 10th annual conference in May 2016:

This group produced a 2016 whitepaper which is currently being updated: