Environmental protection law for oceans announced

  • Nick Smith

New laws to manage the environmental effects of activities like petroleum exploration and mining within New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Extended Continental Shelf (ECS) were announced today by Environment Minister Nick Smith at the Environmental Defence Society Conference in Auckland.

"This area of ocean, 20-times New Zealand's land area, offers significant economic opportunities, but we must also ensure we have robust laws in place to protect the environment", Dr Smith said.

The Exclusive Economic Zone and Extended Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill will provide for:


  • the new Environmental Protection Authority to be responsible for consenting, monitoring and enforcement
  • activities to be classified as either permitted, discretionary (requiring a consent) or prohibited
  • public notification and consultation required for all regulations and consents
  • an environmental impact assessment on all consents
  • a general duty to avoid, remedy or mitigate adverse environmental effects
  • a joint application process where activities span the EEZ and territorial sea
  • enforcement penalties aligned with the Maritime Transport and Resource Management Acts

"This legislation is needed to fill the gap beyond the 12-mile limit of the Resource Management Act. We do not want to see in New Zealand the type of environmental disaster that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico last year,” Dr Smith said.

"The Environmental Protection Authority is the right agency to be responsible for consenting in these areas rather than regional councils. It is too far offshore to significantly impact on local communities and we need the specialist skills of a national regulator to deal with the complex issues associated with activities like deep sea drilling.

"The policy is carefully balanced to recognise the economic opportunities while providing effective environmental protection. It has been designed to avoid duplication with other legislation such as the Maritime Transport, Fishing and Crown Minerals Acts, and to minimise compliance costs."

The Bill is currently being drafted by Parliamentary Counsel on the policy announced today and agreed by Cabinet. The intention is to introduce this to Parliament next month, refer it to the Local Government and Environment Committee for consideration, with an intention for it to come into effect on 1 July 2012.

"This initiative is part of the Government's Bluegreen agenda of growing the economy while responsibly protecting the environment," Dr Smith said.