The Government has moved to bring its legislation regulating deep sea drilling and other activity in New Zealand's vast offshore ocean areas into line with the Resource Management Act.
But Labour's environment spokesman Grant Robertson said amendments to the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill introduced yesterday lack the RMA's set of principals which decision makers considering applications must adhere to.
After earlier this week announcing changes to the legislation which is expected to go through its committee stage in Parliament next week, Environment Minister Amy Adams yesterday tabled a supplementary order paper to the bill.
The amendments include changes to the bill's purpose statement which had been criticised by Opposition parties, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and the Law Commission, who said it was skewed in favour of economic activity over the environment and didn't comply with New Zealand's international obligations.
The purpose statement is now in line with that in the RMA and the supplementary order paper also introduces higher penalties for companies that breach the terms of their consents for activity in the EEZ which lies between 12 and 200 nautical miles off the coast.
Mr Robertson said Ms Adam's amendments to the purpose statement were a major improvement but the purpose statement still did not take sufficient regard of New Zealand's international obligations to protect the marine environment.
"The second point is the purpose of the RMA is also backed up by section six which outlines the principals that have to be taken into account by decision makers. That is absent from here as well."
Labour accepted there would be economic activity within the Economic Zone "but we think New Zealanders would expect us to create the most robust possible framework to protect and preserve the marine environment."
Mr Robertson said Labour intended to continue discussions with the Government "to see if we can get to a position where we can support the bill".By Adam Bennett Email Adam