New Zealand’s Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, spanning an area of 620,000 sq km, will be one of the world’s largest and most significant fully protected ecosystems in the world.

Located in the South Pacific Ocean about 1,000 km northeast of New Zealand, a vast stretch of New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone is being turned into a sanctuary in a landmark deal to preserve one of the most pristine and unique environments on earth.

The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary extends to 15 per cent of New Zealand’s EEZ. This is twice the size of the NZ landmass, and 50 times the size of its largest national park.

The area is one of the most geologically diverse in the world, home to over 6 million seabirds of 39 different species, ranging from tiny storm petrels to large wandering albatrosses, 35 species of dolphin and whale, 250 species of corals and bryozoans, and 150 species of fish.

It contains the world’s longest chain of 30 submerged volcanoes and the second deepest ocean trench in the world which, at a depth of 10 kilometres, is deeper than Mt Everest is tall.

The sanctuary will create a no-take, fully protected zone prohibiting commercial fishing and aquaculture, recreational fishing, fishing-related tourism, oil, gas and mineral prospecting, exploration and mining.

Prime Minister John Key made the announcement at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The government is aiming to pass legislation next year.