Distribution of Cinctipora elegans around New Zealand, based on New Zealand Oceanographic Survey samples.
Cinctipora elegans is known only from New Zealand, ranging over latitudes from 40° to 53°S. Most records come from the continental shelf southeast of the South Island but the species is also found around the Chatham Islands and in Cook Strait.
It belongs to a family of cyclostomes that is endemic to New Zealand at the present-day but has been found recently as a fossil in Argentina. As a fossil Cinctipora elegans is first found in deposits of late Miocene age.
The recorded depth range of Cinctipora elegans is from 14 to 914 metres. However, average depth of occurrence is 135 metres. On the Otago Shelf Cinctipora elegans forms thickets at depths between 80 and 95 metres. These act as habitats for juvenile fishes, such as blue cod (Parapercis colias).