The UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf has recognised New Zealand's seabed rights to the outer edge of the continental shelf around the country, according to NZ Prime Minister, Helen Clark.
The 1.7 million sq km area is six times the size of New Zealand's land area and extends well beyond the country's fishing rights that are encompassed within the 320 km (200 mile) Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
The territory includes a large area in the Tasman Sea called the Lord Howe Rise, a block extending north into the Pacific Ocean towards Tonga and Fiji, an area skirting the Chatham Rise to the east, and additional areas to the far south. The continental shelf is largely consistent with the Zealandia continental mass that has been submerged for millions of years.
A boundary agreement on the shelf was established with Australia in 2004, but an agreement on the shelf boundary to the north of New Zealand has yet to be finalized with Fiji and Tonga that share an overlap with the northern continental shelf.
The recognition of New Zealand's continental shelf means that in the future New Zealand will be able to control the use of any oil and other minerals on and below the seabed of the continental shelf, but fishing rights will not extend beyond the EEZ.
There may be oil reserves on the Lord Howe and Chatham Rise shelves, gold on the Three Knights ridge north of NZ, and manganese nodules that have formed on the seabed over millions of years.