This page provides an overview of the regulations and proposed regulations under the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012. It includes how regulations are made and activities are classified.
Regulations in force
The first set of regulations under the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012 (the Act) came into force on 28 June 2013. They covered section 20 activities carried out as part of:
- seismic surveying
- prospecting and exploration phases of seabed mineral mining and petroleum (excluding exploratory oil and gas drilling)
- submarine cabling
- marine scientific research.
See the following links:
Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects—Permitted Activities) Regulations 2013 [New Zealand Legislation website]
Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Fees and Charges) Regulations 2013 [New Zealand Legislation website]
The second set of regulations covering exploratory oil and gas drilling came into force on 28 February 2014.
Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects— Non – notified Activities) Regulations 2014 [New Zealand Legislation website]
Documents incorporated by reference under the Act
Under the EEZ permitted activities regulations, 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]
The Government is currently considering submissions on how to regulate the discharge of harmful substances and the dumping of waste. An announcement on decisions will be made in due course.
See the following related documents.
Environmental Risk Assessment of Discharges of Sediment during Prospecting and Exploration for Seabed Minerals
An independent report prepared for the Ministry for the Environment by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd (NIWA).
Under the Act, regulations can to be made to classify activities and set out specific standards and requirements.
The Government intends that the regulation of activities be:
- proportionate to their likely environmental effect and the effect on existing interests
- cost effective
- consistent with our international obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
For further information see: Impact Assessment Guidance [PDF, 82 KB]
The Act allows the Minister for the Environment to classify activities as:
The activity can be undertaken provided the operator meets conditions specified in regulations.
Activities can be undertaken if applicants obtain a marine consent from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA). The EPA may grant or decline consent and place conditions on the consent. The consent application will not be publicly notified. The EPA must assess the consent within a 60 working day statutory timeframe.
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 EPA must assess the consent within a 140 working day statutory timeframe.
The activity may not be undertaken.
The classification chosen 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.
How the marine consent process works
- Activities classified as permitted do not require marine consents.
- Marine consents will be required for discretionary and non-notified discretionary activities. The discretionary activity classification is the default for activities that are not permitted, non-notified discretionary or prohibited.
- All marine consent applicants will be required to prepare an impact assessment identifying the effects on the environment and existing interests of the proposed activity. The impact assessment will also specify measures that will be taken (if consent is granted) to avoid, remedy or mitigate the adverse effects.
- Applications for discretionary activities will be publicly notified and submissions will be invited. For discretionary activities, hearings will be held if requested by any party including submitters.
- Applications for non-notified discretionary activities will not be publicly notified, but the EPA may hold a hearing with applicants or other parties to gain further information on the application.
- The EPA makes the decision on whether or not to grant marine consents.
See more information on the marine consent process on the Environment Protection Authority website
Considerations when making decisions on marine consents
To achieve the purpose of the Act, the EPA must consider a number of factors when making decisions on marine consent applications.
- any effects on the environment or existing interests of allowing the activity, including:
- cumulative effects
- effects that may occur in New Zealand or in the waters above or beyond the continental shelf beyond the outer limits of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ)
- the effects on the environment or existing interests of other activities undertaken in the area covered by the application or in its vicinity, including:
- the effects of activities that are not regulated under this Act
- effects that may occur in New Zealand or in the waters above or beyond the continental shelf beyond the outer limits of the EEZ
- the effects on human health that may arise from effects on the environment
- the importance of protecting the biological diversity and integrity of marine species, ecosystems, and processes
- the importance of protecting rare and vulnerable ecosystems and the habitats of threatened species
- the economic benefit to New Zealand of allowing the application
- the efficient use and development of natural resources
- the nature and effect of other marine management regimes
- best practice in relation to an industry or activity
- the extent to which imposing conditions might avoid, remedy, or mitigate the adverse effects of the activity
- relevant regulations
- any other applicable law
- any other matter the EPA considers relevant and reasonably necessary to determine the application
- any submissions made and evidence given in relation to the application for discretionary activities
- any advice, reports, or information the EPA has sought and received in relation to the application
- any advice received from the EPA’s Māori Advisory Committee.
Note that the factors to be considered when making decisions on marine consents for discharge and dumping activities have slightly different requirements appropriate to the activity.
Find out more
Ministers’ media releases
New regulations for exploratory drilling February 2014 [Beehive website]
Feedback sought on Exclusive Economic Zone regulations May 2012 [Beehive website]