The three principle pieces of legislation that are used to establish reserves and covenants that protect various aspects of New Zealand's earth science heritage are:
The Reserves Act 1977 provides "for the preservation and management for the benefit and enjoyment of the public, areas of New Zealand possessing ... natural, scenic, ... geological, scientific, educational ... features of value; ensuring ... the preservation of representative samples of all classes of natural ecosystems and landscape which in their aggregate originally gave New Zealand its own recognisable character".
The National Parks Act 1980 provides "for the preservation in perpetuity ... areas of New Zealand that contain scenery of such distinctive value, ... and natural features so beautiful, unique or scientifically important that their preservation is in the national interest".
The Queen Elizabeth II National Trust Act 1977 encourages and promotes the provision, protection and enhancement of open space for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of New Zealand. Open space includes any area "... that serves to preserve ... landscape of aesthetic, ... scenic or scientific ... interest or value."
Under the Resource Management Act 1991 and Coastal Policy Statement, a lower level of protection is able to be provided for our earth science heritage, irrespective of its ownership. This is through the planning and consent processes of the many territorial local authorities.
The purpose of the Resource Management Act is "to promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources". Section 6(b) states that "the protection of outstanding natural features and landscapes from inappropriate subdivision, use, and development" is a matter of national importance.
Among the national priorities set out in the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 1994 is the protection within the coastal environment of "(i) significant representative examples of each landform which provide the variety in each region; and (ii) visually or scientifically significant geological features" (Policy 1.1.3a).