Next steps signalled for space activity laws

Economic and Regional Development

The Government has released a review of the operation and effectiveness of the law controlling commercial space activities, and signalled a separate study on wider issues of space policy will begin later this year.

Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash says a review of the Outer Space and High-Altitude Activities Act (OSHAA Act) was required by law after it had been in place for three years.

“The review concludes our regulatory framework for commercial space activities has performed well,” said Stuart Nash.

“The legislation came into effect in 2017 as new commercial activity based on space and high altitude technologies emerged in New Zealand, like satellite and balloon launches.

“While New Zealand’s space sector is still in its infancy, it carries considerable economic benefits. A 2019 report found the commercial space sector contributes $1.69 billion to the economy and supports 12,000 jobs, supporting our economic recovery.

“Following the first three years of the law in practice, we have now completed a review of its operation. This looked at whether licensing and permitting processes are working effectively, and whether improvements are needed for space industry operations.

“Overall, the report concludes that New Zealand’s regime for the regulation of space and high-altitude activities has performed well. There have been no material safety or security issues, and decisions have been compliant with New Zealand’s international obligations, and national security and national interests. 

“Submitters made proposals for improving the regime beyond the current legal framework. This included both substantive issues and the need for a simpler ‘tidy up’ of the legislation to clarify potential ambiguities. 

“Key issues of substance relate to technological advances since the legislation was developed which may need to be reflected in legislative changes. In general, the issue of emerging technologies make it important to ensure our space regime is future-proofed.

“I agree with all of the report’s recommendations for improving the existing OSHAA Act. There will now be a further, detailed round of public consultation over wider space policy later this year.

“The plan to consult on the next steps for space policy was due to start in 2021 but was postponed in September as the Government focussed on the more immediate COVID-19 response. The public consultation will address issues raised by some of the feedback we received on the more narrow statutory review.

“It will ask questions about the peaceful, sustainable and responsible uses of space and what this means for space activity in New Zealand, and the recognition of Māori interests in space.

“It will focus on core values and principles that underpin space policy. The tight controls on payload permit applications are central to our policy and will remain. We have an independent foreign policy and a proud history of being nuclear free and would never do anything to compromise that.

“The forthcoming review will also consider the principles to inform new policies to deal with evolving activities, like technology for removal of space debris, mega-constellations of satellites, high-altitude vehicles, and ground stations or infrastructure for space activity.

“I expect to announce further details about the public consultation process later in the year,” Stuart Nash said.

Read the report online here: Statutory review of the Outer Space and High-Altitude Activities Act 2017