The Reserves Act 1977 was established to acquire, preserve and manage areas for their conservation values or public recreational and educational values.

View the full Reserves Act 1977 on the New Zealand Legislation website.

The Reserves Act provides for the acquisition of land for reserves, and the classification and management of reserves (including leases and licences).

Main functions

The Reserves Act has three main functions. These are:

  • To provide for the preservation and management, for the benefit and enjoyment of the public, areas possessing some special feature or values such as recreational use, wildlife, landscape amenity or scenic value. For example, the reserve may have value for recreation, education, as wildlife habitat or as an interesting landscape.  
  • To ensure, as far as practicable, the preservation of representative natural ecosystems or landscapes and the survival of indigenous species of flora and fauna, both rare and commonplace.
  • To ensure, as far as practicable, the preservation of access for the public to the coastline, islands, lakeshore and riverbanks and to encourage the protection and preservation of the natural character of these areas.

Who manages the reserves?

Reserves may be administered by the department or by other ministers, boards, trustees, local authorities, societies and other organisations appointed to control and manage the reserve, or in whom reserves are vested.

Types of reserve

There are eight categories of reserves:

National Reserves (Section 13)

These are reserves which have values of national or international importance.

Recreation Reserves (Section 17)

The main purpose of these reserves is the provision of areas for recreation and sporting activities. This is to provide for the physical welfare and enjoyment of the public and for protection of the natural environment and beauty.

Historic Reserves (Section 18)

These reserves are established primarily to protect and preserve in perpetuity places, objects and natural features of historic, archaeological, cultural, educational and other special interest.

Scenic Reserves (Section 19)

These reserves are established to protect and preserve in perpetuity, for their intrinsic worth and for the public benefit, enjoyment and use, such qualities of scenic interest or beauty or natural features worthy of protection in the public interest.

Nature Reserves (Section 20)

These reserves are established primarily to protect and preserve in perpetuity indigenous flora or fauna or natural features of rarity, scientific interest or importance so unique that their preservation is in the public interest. Entry is by permit only.

Scientific Reserves (Section 21)

The principal purpose of these reserves is the protection and preservation in perpetuity of areas for scientific study, research, education and the benefit of the country. Entry to all or part of a reserve may be restricted to permit holders.

Government Purpose Reserves (Section 22)

These reserves are held for the particular government purpose specified. They include wildlife management areas.

Local Purpose Reserves (Section 23)

These are held for the particular local purposes specified.

Wilderness Areas (Section 47)

Reserves or parts of reserves may be set apart as Wilderness Areas. They are maintained in a natural state. No buildings, animals, roads and so on, are permitted.

Other categories of land

Conservation covenants may be entered into with owners of private land or holders of Crown land under lease to manage the land in order to preserve the natural environment without the need to purchase the land. Covenants bind successors in title (section 77). Nga Whenua Rahui Kawenata may be entered into by Maori landowners (section 77A). "Protected private land" is a category of land similar to conservation covenant land (section 76). 

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