Find out when you are permitted to construct and maintain access related structures and tracks on the Sounds Foreshore Reserve.

The Sounds Foreshore Reserve occupies 900 km of the Marlborough Sounds coastline. It is owned by all New Zealanders and is managed on their behalf by DOC. 

Purpose of the Reserve

The purpose is to:

  • provide access for the public
  • maintain and enhance the scenic, historic, and natural features of the Reserve
  • protect the coastline from sedimentation and other land use effects. 

Constructing access related structures for private purposes

You must apply for a concession from DOC before you can construct access related structures and tracks on the Sounds Foreshore Reserve for private purposes. See Sounds Foreshore Reserve concessions for more information.

Each situation will be assessed on a case by case basis.

Establishing the boundary

The landowner is responsible for determining private property boundaries. A distance of 20 m above the mean high-water mark can be used as a rough guide to determine the extent of the Sounds Foreshore Reserve.

The Marlborough District Council’s Smart Maps-Property can also be accessed to give an indication of boundary lines, however there may be a margin of error.

To be certain of the boundary, either a survey is required, or the original survey pegs must be located.

Note: The coastline of the Sounds Foreshore Reserve has changed since it was last surveyed. Where it has increased through accretion or decreased through erosion the boundary of your property has not moved. Your original boundary remains in place.

What structures/buildings can be located on the Reserve?

New buildings or structures

The only new structures that are allowed on the Sounds Foreshore Reserve are boatsheds, septic systems (i.e. dispersal fields), retaining structures (including seawalls) and access structures (including luggage lifts and cable cars) for private use only. This means no new or further extensions to existing living accommodation, decks and/or sleep-outs will be authorised.

New boatsheds, septic systems, retaining structures and access structures on Sounds Foreshore Reserve may be permitted under the following conditions:

  • no acceptable site exists on the owner’s adjacent property
  • the building is of low profile and will have a minimum impact on the surrounding environment
  • public access along the foreshore will not be restricted
  • no acceptable form of alternative access to the owner’s adjoining property exists.

Note: No new buildings will be authorised on Sounds Foreshore Reserve for commercial use.

Existing structures 

Existing structures and extensions that were built prior to the Building Act 1991 that have not already been authorised may be retrospectively authorised. If this applies to you, you will need to apply for a Sounds Foreshore Reserve concession. Landowners must provide evidence of the age of the structure.

Structures built without authority on Sounds Foreshore Reserve after 1991 will not be authorised and will need to be removed. 

Access tracks

A permit for minor vegetation clearing and soil movement may be considered for access tracks if:

  • the track is required for boat access to the property
  • the track has minimal effect on the natural scenic, historic and natural features
  • the track does not prevent natural processes such as stream flow, or exacerbate erosion or sedimentation
  • agreed restoration planting takes place.

The following conditions apply:

  • permits to establish access tracks will not allow for exclusive use of the access way
  • permits for clearing vegetation for access will be required to pay a one-off processing fee
  • tracks that require structures such as bridges, culverts and stormwater pipes will require additional permissions (easement concession) with an annual rental.


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