Regulatory changes proposed to support space rocket launches

  • Nick Smith
Environment

New regulations are being proposed to better enable space rocket launches from New Zealand by simplifying the process for dealing with jettisoned material deposited on the seabed in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith announced today.

“We need to update the environmental regulations in the EEZ to better accommodate the space industry. The existing regulations make provisions for activities like minerals exploration and seismic surveying but did not contemplate a space industry in New Zealand when they were written. The key change in the proposals announced today is that jettisoned material from space launch vehicles will be a permitted activity under the EEZ Act subject to certain controls.”

“We have undertaken an environmental risk assessment that concludes the effects and ecological risks are low. Some of the rocket material will burn up in the atmosphere but some may reach the sea and settle on the seabed. It would be excessive to require a full EEZ consent process costing over a million dollars and taking nine months for each rocket launch when the effects from a small amount of rocket debris on the seafloor would be small.”

The discussion paper includes the findings of an environmental risk assessment, which considered the impact and risks at different levels of launch activity. Copies of the discussion paper and the process for providing feedback on it are available at www.mfe.govt.nz

“Space rocket launches are a new activity for New Zealand. The government wishes to help develop a peaceful, safe and responsible industry. These proposals are about enabling a new technologically advanced industry to locate in New Zealand while also ensuring we maintain our high environmental standards.”