The Government has passed the Crown Minerals (Permitting and Crown Land) Bill, with a narrow majority of 61 to 60, supported by National, ACT and United Future. The original Bill was split into five separate Bills which now await royal assent:
- the Crown Minerals Amendment Bill;
- the Conservation Amendment Bill (No 2);
- the Continental Shelf Amendment Bill;
- the Reserves Amendment Bill; and
- the Wildlife Amendment, pursuant to Supplementary Order Paper 208.
Minister of Energy and Resources, Simon Bridges introduced SOP 125 containing contentious amendments to the Bill. New offences impose penalties for damaging or interfering with deep-sea oil and gas operations and limit protesting near such operations. The SOP was fiercely debated in Parliament with Labour's energy spokeswoman Moana Mackey labelling it an "utter dog" and arguing the Minister intentionally excluded it from the Select Committee process. The Attorney-General, Hon Chris Finlayson QC dismissed concerns, replying that the amendment makes protest an offence only if it results in damage or interference.
The SOP has also provoked strong public response. A petition from Greenpeace opposes both the content of the amendment and the legislative process it has followed. As at Wednesday morning, Greenpeace's website recorded 38,257 signatures. Other notable opponents of the amendment include the Rt Hon Geoffrey Palmer QC and Dame Anne Salmond.
The amendments contained in the SOP are as follows:
- Intentionally damaging or interfering with mining structures of vessels or mining activities under the Crown Minerals Act in New Zealand's EEZ is an offence punishable by 12 months imprisonment or a fine up to $50,000, or $100,000 in the case of body corporate.
- Entering a notified non-interference distance of up to 500 metres from a mining ship or structure is a strict liability offence punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 (these distances are notified in the New Zealand Notices to Mariners).
For previous coverage of the Bill after it was reported back from the Commerce Committee please see here.