Feedback sought on Exclusive Economic Zone regulations

New Zealand’s Environment Minister Amy Adams recently released a discussion document on proposed regulations for the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Continental Shelf Bill which provides stronger protection for New Zealand’s marine environment. The legislation, currently before Parliament, supports New Zealand’s reputation as a safe and clean environment, and provides certainty for industry on the regulatory processes that may affect investments. “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, the environmental effects of activities have only been narrowly considered,” Ms Adams says. The Bill, which is consistent with New Zealand’s international obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, sets up a consenting regime for the EEZ and continental shelf that will improve New Zealand’s environmental system and reputation for environmentally-sound business practices. “Current levels of activity in the EEZ and continental shelf are low, and indications suggest that New Zealand will not see a large number of new operations in the next 10 years. In fact, the number of activities needing consent will be a handful each year.” The discussion document seeks feedback on proposed regulations that describe what can and cannot be done in the EEZ without a marine consent, and under what conditions. “I have released this discussion document while the Bill is still progressing through Parliament so that industry and others interested in managing the environmental effects of activities in the oceans can see the detail of what is being proposed. “The Government’s opinion is that activities with more than minor environmental effects should require a marine consent. This means activities with minor or less than minor effects will be classified as permitted, subject to conditions.” The EEZ discussion document proposes that the following activities be permitted, if they comply with a number of specific conditions for each activity. Seismic surveying Submarine cabling Marine scientific research Prospecting for oil and gas and seabed minerals. All exploration, production and decommissioning for oil and gas and seabed minerals would require a marine consent from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA). “The EPA will make independent decisions on marine consent applications, balancing the environment and economy, with input from the public and iwi. “It is important that New Zealanders can see what is being proposed, and have the opportunity to help shape it. I welcome feedback on this.” The discussion document, Managing our Oceans, is available on the Environment Ministry’s website – www.mfe.govt.nz. Submissions close 20 June 2012.

NZ Environmental Protection Authority, 22 May 2012 ;http://www.epa.govt.nz ;