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Amy Adams

18 April, 2013

Next steps for new law to protect the environment

Environment Minister Amy Adams has today announced that a new law to enable the comprehensive environmental management of activities in New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) will come into force in June.

“The EEZ Act fills an important gap in our environmental regime and will provide more responsible management of New Zealand’s oceans,” Ms Adams says.

“New Zealand has one of the biggest exclusive economic zones in the world. Together with our continental shelf, it is an area of ocean that is 20 times the size of our land mass, and up until now, there has been a lack of environmental protection for it.”

Ms Adams today outlined the next steps for the law to come into place.

The legislation will be brought into force by making regulations that permit lower impact activities, subject to conditions and based on NIWA analysis of their likely environmental impact.

Consultation on the content of the regulations was undertaken last year.

The draft regulations will classify the following activities as permitted:

  • Seismic surveying
  • Marine scientific research
  • Submarine cabling
  • Prospecting for petroleum and minerals
  • Exploration for minerals

Production mining activities for petroleum and minerals will remain discretionary. No activities are proposed to be prohibited.

The responsibility for the regulation of certain discharge and dumping activities in the EEZ is currently being transferred from the Maritime Transport Act 1994 to the EEZ Act through the Marine Legislation Bill currently before the House.

The Government intends to introduce a new non-notified discretionary classification for the EEZ regime to mirror the options currently available under the Maritime Transport Act for discharge and dumping activities. This change will be proposed by way of a SOP to the Marine Legislation Bill.

The new classification will provide for an appropriate level of oversight and discretion by the Environmental Protection Authority, while reducing compliance costs. It will also provide a further option for the classification of activities in the EEZ.

It is the Government’s intention to shortly undertake formal consultation on discharge and dumping and petroleum exploration drilling being classified within the new category. If confirmed, it is anticipated that the regulations classifying these activities will be in place in October this year.

“I am advised that petroleum exploration drilling generally takes place over a period of about six weeks, so a simplified process that retains full regulatory discretion appears to be an appropriate response.

“It is important to ensure the process is proportionate to the scale of activities. However, I do consider that full regulator discretion is warranted and therefore it is not appropriate to classify activities of this nature as permitted, as industry had sought.

“The Government has sent a clear message to companies operating in the EEZ that New Zealanders value their oceans. While commercial activity is welcome, it must be on the basis that appropriate environmental safeguards are in place.

“Under the legislation, the Government has ensured that substantial penalties of up to $10 million will apply to companies that do not comply with the regime.”