The Exclusive Economic Zone and Extended Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill has been introduced to Parliament. Its purpose is to achieve a balance between the protection of the environment and economic development in relation to activities in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the Extended Continental Shelf (ECS). Although New Zealand's EEZ and ECS are nearly 20 times our land area (our EEZ is one of the largest in the world) there has been no clear framework for environmental assessment and regulation of activities which parties seek to establish in the EEZ or ECS.
The activities proposed to be covered by the new legislation include those activities that may cause environmental effects such as redistribution of sediment, damage to seabed or ecosystems (for e.g. seabed mining, energy generation, carbon capture and storage, marine farming and some aspects of petroleum exploration and extraction).
The Bill provides for the following:
- The Environmental Protection Authority to be responsible for consenting, monitoring and enforcement;
- Activities to be classified as either permitted, discretionary (requiring a consent) or prohibited;
- Public notification and consultation required for all regulations and consents;
- An environmental impact assessment on all consents;
- A general duty to avoid, remedy or mitigate adverse environmental effects;
- A joint application process where activities span the EEZ and the territorial sea; and
- Enforcement penalties aligned with the Maritime Transport and Resource Management Acts.
The Bill will proceed through the normal legislative process, although no date has been set yet for the close of submissions.