“EEZ regulations rubbish - bin them”, say Greenpeace and Forest & Bird

20 Nov 2013

We’re still working hard to keep the government honest on regulations being made to set the rules and conditions under which deep sea activities such as seabed mining and oil drilling are allowed in our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). 

Last week Greenpeace and Forest & Bird told Parliament’s Regulations Review Committee that regulations recently created under the new EEZ Act are unlawful, for their failure to comply with international law. 

The rules’ shortcomings include weak regulations around seismic surveying, which has recently been found by an expert inquiry to have caused whale strandings and deaths, and is known to be harmful to dolphins and other species. 

As a result, there are very real concerns for our critically-endangered Maui’s dolphin and the threatened whale species that live in areas such as Raglan and Kaikoura, where seismic work is scheduled for late summer.  

On Thursday the Regulations Review Committee heard our joint complaint with Greenpeace about regulations made earlier in the year. They describe permitted activities for prospecting and exploration except oil drilling, which can happen ‘as of right’ (ie, the operator has a right to carry them out), subject only to the conditions set out in the regulations.

The conditions ask operators to say what they’re going to do, and tell the Environmental Protection Agency  (EPA) afterwards what they’ve done.  Even the EPA had concerns about the limits of what it would be able to do, as official information obtained by Forest & Bird reveals.

Particular issues relate to the permitted status given to seismic surveying activity, and the regulations’ failure to protect sensitive environments as required by international law (in particular UNCLOS - the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), or to take a precautionary approach. 

Separately, changes to the Marine Legislation Bill hurried through Parliament without a select committee hearing in September provide for oil exploration to be made a new ‘non -notified discretionary’ category of activity, meaning that the public and groups such as ourselves would not have a say on where and how it occurs. 

Our submission opposes this, and reminds officials again of the need for them to be assessing and giving effect to New Zealand’s UNCLOS obligations.