The Marine Legislation Bill has passed its first reading in Parliament and has been referred to Select Committee. This omnibus bill introduces changes in three key areas:
- Part 1 of the Bill amends the provisions of the Maritime Transport Act 1994 relating to port and harbour safety and navigation safety.
- Part 1 of the Bill also allows New Zealand to accede to three international maritime conventions primarily relating to maritime claims for loss of life, injury, property damage and other damage or loss (notably it would see the liability limit for damage doubled).
- Part 2 of the Bill amends the EEZ Act 2012 to transfer the regulatory functions relating to marine discharges (excluding oil) and dumping of waste at sea from Maritime New Zealand ("MNZ") to the Environmental Protection Authority ("EPA").
The changes in Part 2 of the Bill, which bring marine discharges and dumping within the control of the EPA, will not come as a huge surprise to the mining and petroleum industries. The transfer of this function to the EPA was foreshadowed in MfE's discussion document released earlier this year titled "Managing Our Oceans". Indeed the move seems sensible and should result in more integrated management of effects than were the current regime of two consenting processes by the EPA and MNZ to continue.
However, the change could result in a more rigorous consenting regime for discharge and dumping activities. Under the current system, those wishing to discharge in the EEZ or continental shelf must prepare Discharge Management Plans, consult relevant persons and submit such plans to MNZ for approval under the Maritime Transport Act 1994 at least two months prior to undertaking any activity. Under the Bill, discharges would be classified as either:
- a permitted activity which is controlled by regulations made under the EEZ Act; or
- a discretionary activity requiring a marine consent under the EEZ Act.
Marine discharge consents would be processed, heard and decided using the procedures applying to other marine consents under the EEZ Act. The EEZ Act provides a comprehensive process for public notification, submissions and hearings. The EEZ Act was passed in September 2012, although it is not expected to come into force until next year, once the detailed regulations have been finalized.
You can view a copy of the Bill here. Submissions on the Bill close on 12 October 2012.