Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Govt's marine bill draws flak ahead of progression

It can be hard to quantify the risks associated with large-scale oil development. Photo / Thinkstock
It can be hard to quantify the risks associated with large-scale oil development. Photo / Thinkstock

Government legislation to regulate deep sea oil drilling, seabed mining and other activities in New Zealand's massive offshore Exclusive Economic Zone is again under attack from Opposition parties ahead of its second reading.

Parliament's Local Government and Environment Select Committee yesterday produced its report on the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill.

The bill establishes an environmental management regime for New Zealand's vast but currently unregulated Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which lies between 12 and 200 nautical miles off the coast.

Regulation of the EEZ has become a pressing issue with the Government making offshore oil, gas and even mineral exploration and extraction an important plank of its economic growth agenda.

The Bill was criticised by Labour and the Greens in its initial stage for being weighted too far in favour of economic interests at the expense of environmental protections.

Labour's environment spokesman Grant Robertson said the bill was largely unchanged after being considered by the committee.

Labour had opposed the bill because it felt it not only failed to provide a robust regime to protect New Zealand's marine environment, "but the proposed conditions are weaker than and inconsistent with the Resource Management Act, and fail to meet our international obligations''.

"Sadly the Government has not dealt with these issues, hence we remain opposed to the Bill.''

Green Party oceans spokesman Gareth Hughes said although his party supported the bill at the first stage, they would also now oppose it.

"The Green Party supports sound environmental management of our oceans, however the Government's EEZ Bill contains too many serious flaws for us to continue to vote for it,'' said Mr Hughes.

"The EEZ Bill will not protect our oceans. The Bill will simply rubber stamp risky deep sea oil drilling.

"We need oceans legislation that sets environmental bottom lines. But the EEZ Bill fails to recognise that there are environmental limits that must not be breached.''

- NZ Herald

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