Special permits can allow certain activity that would usually be restricted under the Fisheries Act. Find out about special permits for fisheries, how to apply for one, and what activities they allow.
Special permits are used to override sections of the Fisheries Act. People can apply for them, but they're only granted if the requested activities suit the principles of the Act. This means that special permit holders can do restricted activities (for a fixed period of time), as long as it fits with the Act's purpose. For example, a special permit can't be used as an alternative way to gain commercial access to fish or other aquatic life.
Activities which a special permit allows
If you hold a special permit, it could allow:
- fishing in an area that is closed under regulations
- the taking of undersize fish
- the use of restricted fishing gear.
MPI can issue special permits under Section 97 of the Fisheries Act 1996 to authorise taking aquatic life for the purpose of:
- investigative research
- management or eradication of unwanted aquatic life
- gear trials like innovative trawl technology
- use of alternative fishing methods by a disabled person for sport or recreation
- any other purpose as approved by the Minister for Primary Industries.
A special permit can be issued only for a fixed period of time. If a special permit is approved it does not provide any expectation that a future special permit or other right under the Act will be granted.
Follow the steps to apply for a special permit.
Understand the legal requirements
Before applying for a special permit, you should understand the legal and information requirements of the Fisheries Act 1996 and related regulations.
Information for trialling new trawl gear
If you want a special permit so that you can trial new trawl gear, you may need to understand some other legislation.
- Fisheries (Innovative Trawl Technologies) Notice 2017
- Fisheries (Trawling) Amendment Regulations 2017 – NZ Legislation website
You can trial new trawl gear as part of MPI's Fisheries Change Programme. The programme is partly focused on enabling innovative new trawl gear to make fishing more sustainable in New Zealand.
- Learn more about the process for trialling new trawl gear
- Learn about the Fisheries Change Programme
Ask us for advice
If you're planning to apply, MPI encourages you to contact our fisheries management team to discuss your concept and get guidance.
MPI can give guidance on how feasible your project is, and on the application process.
Consult with people and organisations who may be affected
The work you do under a special permit may affect people or organisations. MPI must consult with them (or their representatives) before issuing the permit. You can speed up this process by:
- doing your own consultation
- providing letters from the groups who are affected by your application, which support your proposed activities.
Consult with tangata whenua
MPI acknowledges our obligations to Māori under the Treaty of Waitangi and various settlement Acts. We must provide tangata whenua with opportunities to give input, and to participate in managing fisheries. Before you submit your application, we encourage you to consult with tangata whenua in the area of your proposed activities. Use the NABIS map system for this.
When NABIS opens, tick the box for 'Customary Areas', and then the box for 'Iwi Fisheries Protocol Areas'. Zoom in to see the names of each Iwi Protocol Area. We recommend using Google Chrome.
More information on consulting with tangata whenua
All special permit proposals should include:
- the reason for the activity
- the species that will be taken
- the amount of each species that will be taken
- details of any vessels that are used
- how collections will be done
- the people involved
- how you plan to dispose of the species taken
- information on any consulting that was done.
Special permit applications to do research and gear trials must include an effective research proposal. More information on the requirements for research proposals are in the application form.
- Download the special permit application form [PDF, 203 KB]
Get the forms you need
Each application must be submitted using the special permit application form.
- Download the application form [PDF, 203 KB]
You will also need to provide a detailed proposal to support your application. You should refer to the information sheets in the application form.
You need to include your MPI client number on the form. Your client number is a unique identifier for fisheries processes. You will be a client and have a number if you are a commercial fisher, a licensed fish receiver, a registered or licenced fish farmer, or have had a special permit before. If you're not already a client of MPI, you'll need to complete the relevant client application form, which is issued by FishServe. You can download this from the FishServe website. FishServe is MPI's partner for administering commercial fishing in New Zealand.
Submit your application
Once completed, return the special permit application and supporting information to:
Ministry for Primary Industries – Spatial Allocations Team
Private Bag 14
Phone: 03 548 1069
MPI will ask you for more information, if required. If we don't get all of the required information with the application, it may cause a delay in processing your application.
MPI will assess your application
After we receive your application, we'll assess the proposal and check whether it meets the purpose and principles of the Fisheries Act 1996.
We'll need to be satisfied that your proposed activity has merit and is consistent with the purpose that you have applied under. We are not likely to issue a special permit if your activity can be successfully done through any other existing legal mechanism, such as a commercial fishing permit or marine farming.
If MPI approves your application, we will issue a special permit that includes conditions on what you can do. Conditions might include:
- areas you can fish
- quantity, species or size of fish or other aquatic life you can take
- how you must dispose of fish
- vessels and methods you can use
- specific information you must report back to MPI
- notifying Fisheries Compliance before fishing
Before issuing the special permit, MPI may check aspects of the proposed permit with you first.
If your special permit is approved, we'll email or post you a copy of the permit. You'll need to make sure that you understand all the terms and conditions of the permit, and keep a copy with you whenever you are fishing under its authority.
If your permit is declined, we'll advise you why – you can then change your proposal and submit it for assessment to MPI again if you wish.
MPI will charge you for the costs of assessing and processing a special permit application. The hourly rate is $133.88 (including GST, or $116.42 excluding GST). MPI will send you an invoice after a decision is made. Most applications take between 6 and 20 hours to process.
Amending a special permit
As your project progresses, you may find your original proposal no longer fits with the work you're doing. If you need to amend or update the conditions of your special permit, submit a new proposal or ask the Spatial Allocations Team for an amendment. You don't need to use a form to amend your permit – you can just supply the information. MPI will assess your request and advise you of the decision in the same way as in Step 4.
- Email: Specialpermits@mpi.govt.nz
- Phone: 03 548 1069
Find out more
Who to contact
If you have questions about special permits or the application process, email Specialpermits@mpi.govt.nz
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