Defence Minister Ron Mark has had an "eye opening experience" during a visit to Antarctica.
Mr Mark met New Zealand Defence Force personnel serving on the ice supporting Antarctica New Zealand.
The Defence Force provides support at three locations during the season - Scott Base, McMurdo Station (the US base) and Harewood Terminal back in Christchurch, Mr Mark said.
The four-day visit provided an overview of New Zealand's interests and activities in the region, and Antarctica NZ's current work programme and its contribution to government priorities.
The Ross Sea Marine Protected Area (MPA), agreed to by the Commission for the Conservation of Marine Living Resources in October last year, came into force on Friday.
Mr Mark said the joint New Zealand-United States initiative is a major contribution to global marine protection.
The MPA balances environmental protection, sustainable fishing and science interests.