Eighteen new marine protection areas are being created and there will be restrictions on fishing in order to bring back the health of Auckland's beleaguered Hauraki Gulf.
The changes are part of a new strategy, Revitalising the Gulf — Government action on the Sea Change Plan, which was released this morning.
Oceans and Fisheries Minister David Parker and Acting Conservation Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall made the announcement.
"We are delivering on our election promise, taking immediate action to build on the good work already being done to restore the health of the Gulf," Parker said in a statement.
"We are also taking the long view, recognising that sustained action is necessary to ensure that the Gulf and its economic, environmental, cultural and social benefits can continue to be enjoyed."
He told Breakfast the new strategy would be "transformative" and "huge".
"We haven't done a good job [of protecting the Gulf] in the past and we need to do better."
Some of the 18 new marine protected areas would be no-take, but most would be customary, Parker said.
This would increase protection of the Gulf threefold, he said. The marine protected areas would be in place within three years, as legislative changes were required.
Parker also said trawl fishing would be restricted to carefully selected "corridors".
While Parker thought land-based activities had affected the health of the Gulf the most, New Zealand Geographic's James Frankham earlier told Breakfast commercial and recreational fishing had led to "ecosystem collapse".
Frankham said the Gulf should have been protected 20 years ago when the Marine Park was established.
The Hauraki Gulf has more than 50 islands and spans more than 1.2 million hectares.
In 2020, the sixth State of the Gulf report found 11 of the 14 most commonly caught fish may disappear entirely and more than 15,000 square kilometres of shellfish beds have been lost in the area.
It also found current no-take areas are so small as to be almost meaningless, crayfish have all but disappeared and the total reported commercial catch of fish in the most recent three-year period was around 30 per cent greater than in three years before the marine park was established.