Anyone breaking marine consent rules in the Exclusive Economic Zone may soon face hefty fines, as the Government moves to better protect New Zealand's marine environment.
Under proposed changes, companies who do not comply with the rules will face fines of up to $10 million. Fines were previously $600,000.
In a speech to the Environmental Defence Society's conference today, Environment Minister Amy Adams said the Government had made changes to the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill after hearing from submitters and stakeholders who wanted the maximum fine to be lifted.
"At this new level, I consider the penalty would be high enough to provide significant incentive to comply with the regime when operating in the EEZ,'' said Ms Adams.
"The purpose clause of the Bill would become one of sustainable management of our oceans for economic growth.''
She said the concept of sustainable management was well-defined in domestic legislation through more than 20 years of Resource Management Act case law.
"Clarifying the transition period for planned petroleum activities would provide greater certainty for industry in planning for the 2013/14 drilling season, while still ensuring adequate environmental oversight,'' she said.
"The changes the Government is proposing will create strong legislation, encourage compliance and provide greater certainty for industry and the public.''
The key changes the Government proposes to make are:
*Amend the purpose of the Bill to incorporate the concept of sustainable management to reflect the Resource Management Act
*Increase the maximum penalty for companies that breach marine consents from $600,000 to $10m
*Clarify that a transitional period for planned petroleum activities will cover the 2013/14 drilling season; and
*Provide a maximum statutory timeframe of six months for a marine consent process.