Protecting New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone
Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012 and current regulatory proposals
Consulting on an exposure draft of regulations for the discharge of harmful substances and the dumping of waste under the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012 closed on Wednesday 19 March 2014.
Submissions are currently being considered and an announcement on decisions will be made in due course.
You can still view the:
To find out more about the EEZ Act, see the EEZ Act questions and answers page.
What the EEZ Act does
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 activities, seabed mining, marine energy generation and carbon capture developments.
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 by other Acts. The EEZ Act does not override these other 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. Before the EEZ Act was passed there was a gap in our domestic legislation.
The EEZ Act sets up a framework for managing the effects of activities in the EEZ and continental shelf. The text of the Act can be found on the New Zealand Legislation website.
Regulations under the EEZ Act
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 Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects—Permitted Activities) Regulations 2013 were promulgated and came into force on 28 June 2013. The regulatory impact statement and Cabinet paper [PDF,9.39 MB] for the final proposals for permitted activity regulations are available online.
Classification of activities
The EEZ Act allows the Minister for the Environment to classify activities as:
- Permitted – the activity can be undertaken provided the operator meets conditions specified in regulations.
- Non-notified discretionary – activities can be undertaken if applicants obtain a marine consent from the EPA. The EPA may grant or decline consent and place conditions on the consent. The consent application will not be publicly notified, and has statutory timeframes adding up to 60 working days in which the EPA must assess the consent. (note: this classification is not yet in effect; it will come into effect when activities are first classified under it)
- Discretionary – activities can be undertaken if applicants obtain a marine consent from the EPA, the EPA may decline or grant a consent and place conditions on the consent. The consent application will be publicly notified, submissions will be invited, and hearings will be held if requested by any party including submitters. The process has statutory timeframes adding up to 140 working days in which the EPA must assess the consent.
- Prohibited – the activity may not be undertaken.
The classification will depend on a number of considerations outlined in section 33 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.
Documents incorporated by reference under the EEZ Act
Seismic surveying operators are required to comply with the Department of Conservation's:
Code of Conduct for minimising acoustic disturbance to marine mammals from seismic survey operations [Department of Conservation website]
Find out more
- Activity Classifications Under the EEZ Act – Discussion document on proposals for EEZ regulations, August 2013
- Activity classifications under the EEZ Act: Summary of submissions, December 2013
- Regulatory Impact Statement - Proposal for Marine Legislation Bill Supplementary Order Paper: non-notified discretionary classification to the EEZ and Continental Shelf [PDF, 6.87 MB]
- Minister's media release on the EEZ law now in effect, June 2013 [Beehive website]
- Permitted activity regulations [New Zealand Legislation website]
- Minister's media release on next steps for the EEZ regime, April 2013 [Beehive website]
- Permitted Activity Regulations Cabinet paper [PDF, 9.39 MB]
- Permitted Activity Regulations Cabinet minute [PDF, 2.27 MB]
- Regulatory Impact Statement - Regulations under the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act [PDF, 615 KB]
- Minister’s media release on EEZ regulations discussion document, May 2012 [Beehive website]
- Managing Our Oceans – Discussion Document on proposals for EEZ regulations
- Discharges and Dumping Cabinet paper [PDF, 1.6 MB]
- Discharges and Dumping Cabinet minute [PDF, 320 KB]
- Regulatory Impact Statement - Transfer of discharge and dumping regulatory functions from Maritime New Zealand to the Environmental Protection Authority [PDF, 145 KB]
- Minister’s media release on the Bill and interim measures, August 2011 [Beehive website]
- Interim measures Cabinet paper, August 2011 [PDF, 656 KB]
- Impact Assessment Guidance [PDF, 82 KB]
- Regulatory Impact Statement - Proposed EEZ legislation [PDF, 223 KB]
- Expert Risk Assessment of Activities in the EEZ and ECS (NIWA) August 2012
- Minister’s announcement of EEZ policy, June 2011 [Beehive website]
- EEZ legislation proposal Cabinet paper, May 2011 [PDF 1.57 MB]
- Cabinet minute, May 2011 [PDF, 446 KB]
Last updated: 21 March 2014