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The Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012 (the Act) was enacted on 3 September 2012. The Act will come into force when the first set of regulations is promulgated, which is expected to occur by the end of June 2013. See the Minister’s media release [Beehive website] and the Q&A for more information.
The Act manages the environmental effects of activities in New Zealand’s oceans. The legislation aims to protect our oceans from the potential environmental risks of activities like petroleum exploration, seabed mining, marine energy generation and carbon capture developments.
Before the Act there was a gap in our domestic legislation. The Resource Management Act regulates natural resource management activities on land and in the territorial sea out to 12 nautical miles. Fishing and shipping are also regulated, and the Act does not override those controls that already exist in the EEZ. Beyond 12 nautical miles New Zealand has historically had no means to assess and regulate the environmental effects of many other activities. The EEZ Act fills that regulatory gap and manages the previously unregulated adverse environmental effects of activities in the EEZ and continental shelf. The Act sets up a framework for managing the effects of activities in the EEZ and continental shelf. A detailed set of regulations, currently under development, will establish the legislation’s management system of rules and standards.
The text of the Act can be found on the New Zealand Legislation website.
Consultation on the Government’s discussion document Managing our Oceans, which outlined initial proposals for regulations, closed in June 2012. The Government considered submissions and made final decisions on proposals for permitted activity regulations in December 2012. The Government is currently preparing draft regulations for targeted consultation with affected stakeholders, to ensure those who will need to comply with the regulations understand what will be required of them. These regulations will be promulgated by the end of June 2013. The promulgation of these regulations will bring the whole EEZ Act into force at that time. . The regulatory impact statement and Cabinet paper (PDF, 9.39 MB) for the final proposals for permitted activity regulations is available.
The Act allows the Minister for the Environment to classify activities as:
The classification will depend on a number of considerations outlined in s33 of the Act, including the environmental effects of the activity, the importance of protecting rare and vulnerable ecosystems, and the economic benefit to New Zealand of an activity.
The legislation will not come into effect until the first set of regulations is promulgated in June 2013. Some petroleum exploration is already permitted or due to start, so the Government has established voluntary measures to manage the risks in the interim. The interim measures have been developed in consultation with industry, and foreshadow what will be required when the Act comes into force.
Industry will prepare environmental impact assessments and provide them to the EPA for review.
Policy decisions on the interim measures can be found in the August 2011 Cabinet paper. See the Impact Assessment Guidance (PDF, 82 KB) for industry on government expectations for the interim period. This is also available on the EPA website.
To comprehensively manage environmental effects of activities as a whole, Cabinet has also agreed to transfer some related functions associated with discharge and dumping activities in the EEZ. The Cabinet paper (PDF, 1.6 MB), Cabinet minute (PDF, 320 KB) and Regulatory Impact Statement (PDF, 145 KB) approving the transfer of discharge and dumping functions from Maritime New Zealand to the EPA is now on our website.
This transfer will be made via amendments to the Maritime Transport Act 1994 and the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012 through the Marine Legislation Bill, which was introduced on 30 August 2012 and can be found on the New Zealand Legislation website. More information on the Marine Legislation Bill can also be found on the Ministry of Transport’s website. The Transport and Industrial Relations Committee, to whom the Bill was referred, reported the Bill back to the House of Representatives on 27 February 2013. The Revision-Tracked version of the Bill, submissions and the Committee’s report can be found on the Parliament website.
Last updated: 22 April 2013