Draft regulations regarding discharge and dumping in New Zealand's exclusive economic zone ("EEZ") have been released, and the Ministry for the Environment is calling for public submissions by 19 March 2014.

The draft Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects - Discharge and Dumping) Regulations 2014 relate to the discharge of "harmful substance" from structures, pipelines and production facilities on board mineral mining ships, and to the dumping of other waste in the EEZ and continental shelf.  Other discharges (such as discharges of garbage and operational chemicals) continue to be regulated under the Maritime Transport Act 1994 ("MTA").

It is proposed that the regulation of "discharge and dumping" (which are currently activities regulated by Maritime New Zealand under the MTA) will be transferred to the Environmental Protection Authority ("EPA") in the future.  In addition, different rules will apply for many of the activities under the new regime.

The reason for these changes is to avoid operators having to submit the details of their discharge or dumping activities to two different regulators, as is currently the case.  The change will result in more integrated consideration and management of the activities and their effects by one regulator.  Conditions will be set by the EPA on a case-by-case basis. 

The regulations would also introduce provisions to regulate certain discharges which were not regulated under the MTA.  Other discharges will no longer require a "Discharge Management Plan", and certain discharges will have stricter conditions and monitoring rules.

Dumping rules will be more specific under the new regulations, as dumping is broken into categories (non-notified discretionary, discretionary, and prohibited) depending on the substance and location of what is being dumped.  

The changes under the new regulations should result in more closely monitored activities, a more streamlined consenting processes for operators, and more suitably tailored controls for certain substances rather than blanket regulation.  A copy of the draft regulations is available here, and you can read further supporting information here.