The Government’s key Policy Objective for petroleum is to promote the responsible discovery and development of New Zealand’s petroleum resources that contribute substantially to the New Zealand economy.
Petroleum exploration, development and production activities are predominantly onshore based. However, recently there has been substantial offshore exploration activity, both within and beyond the Territorial Sea, some of which has resulted, and/or which may result in, commercial development.
New Zealand’s marine environment is comprised of diverse ecosystems and species. Many of these are endemic and some are endangered. The marine environment could be impacted by offshore exploration, development and production activities. The protection of these marine systems and species is important, both in a domestic and an international context, because they may have biological, commercial or amenity value.
Activities within New Zealand’s Territorial Sea are subject to the environmental management provisions of the Resource Management Act 1991.
A number of Government agencies have statutory responsibilities for granting permission for particular activities that may occur in New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf beyond the Territorial Sea. It is acknowledged that the regulatory and policy frameworks dealing with the environmental impacts of activities in the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf beyond the Territorial Sea, are neither comprehensive nor coherent. [Environmental Management of Petroleum and Mineral Mining Activities beyond the 12-Mile Limit.Lough, Carol and Gibbs, Doug. Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. Wellington. 1996]
The resultant uncertainty may introduce inefficiency and confusion for both companies who undertake petroleum exploration and production activities (the ‘Industry’) and Government, thus undermining aspects of the Policy Objective noted in 1. above.
Until there is an Oceans Policy, Industry and Government agree to voluntary principles to manage environmental impacts beyond New Zealand's Territorial Sea. This set of voluntary principles is known as the ‘Guidelines’.
Both Industry and Government stakeholders have contributed significantly to the development of the Guidelines.