Labour is accusing the Greens of cosying up to National Party for political reasons by supporting the Government's proposed environmental safeguards for its ambitious deep water gas and oil exploration plans.

The Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill, which establishes an environmental protection system for the ocean beyond New Zealand's 12 mile territorial limit, passed its first reading in Parliament yesterday.

"The Bill recognises that our ocean resources are coming under increased development pressure from a growing global population, depletion of resources on land, and advances in technology that are making ocean resources more accessible", Environment Minister Nick Smith said.

It was consistent with the Government's "blue-green" policy agenda "that supports growing the economy while protecting the environment" Dr Smith told Parliament.


The bill passed its first reading in Parliament yesterday supported by the Maori Party, Act, United Future and the Greens.

In her speech Labour's Maryan Street lashed out at the Greens for supporting the bill.
"This Green party is beginning to align itself in a foreshadowing of its possible coalition arrangements with the National Party that makes it look now more blue than green."

Green Party oceans spokesman David Clendon told the Herald his party believed the legislation was a step in the right direction as the Exclusive Economic Zone was currently almost completely unregulated.

However they didn't believe it went far enough to protect the environment. The Greens also believe the Environmental Protection Agency - which will issue consents for oil and gas and mineral exploration - was too focused on facilitating economic development and that it lacked the necessary expertise and resources to effectively police the deep sea environment. The Greens would support the legislation up to the committee stage but no further unless it was strengthened.

Labour's Environment spokesman Charles Chauvel said the legislation was "too little, too late" saying National had taken too long to introduce it during which time "numerous new exploration licenses have been granted over significant areas of New Zealand's offshore territory."

Furthermore it was "much weaker" than the Resource Management Act which covers activities out to the 12 mile limit.

"As with the legislation setting up the Environmental Protection Authority, this has not been designed to protect the environment. Instead, it is a counterpart to the Government's Petroleum Action Plan to attract more oil and gas exploration in our oceans."

The Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill:
* Covers offshore areas beyond New Zealand's 12 mile territorial limit including the 400 million hectares that lie in the Exclusive Economic Zone, and the 170 million hectares in the Extended Continental Shelf.


*activities including oil and gas exploration, seabed mining and marine farming will be classed as permitted, discretionary or prohibited.

*Discretionary activities will require consent from the Environmental Protection Authority established last year.

*Applications will have to be publicly notified and will require an environmental impact assessment