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3 Policy Options

Overview of options

3.1 Section 2 identified key problems for the management of the EEZ. This section establishes the government’s preferred option for managing these issues, and section 4 examines this option in detail.

3.2 The government considers that action needs to be taken. We want to promote opportunities and address issues before they arise, rather than reacting to problems. There are two broad options available.

  • Option 1: Establish legislative mechanisms focused on filling key gaps in EEZ environmental regulation and promoting a consistent approach across statutes, including the assessment of cumulative effects. This is the preferred option. We already have effective regulation in the EEZ for fisheries, maritime transport and safety, and allocation of Crown minerals. Filling gaps and promoting consistency is the most efficient option, because it focuses only on what needs to be done.
  • Option 2: Develop an entirely new regime for managing all activities in the EEZ. This would involve a reform of existing statutes to develop a unified approach to the environmental management of all activities in the EEZ. This goes beyond the scope of addressing regulatory gaps and would involve major change to other statutes. It is considered disproportionate to the size of the problem. The government considers that it is not necessary to make major changes to existing statutes. Overhauling existing laws for the sake of consistency would involve large transaction costs and would not necessarily lead to better environmental outcomes.

Question 3: Do you agree with this assessment? Which option do you prefer, and why?

Preferred option

3.3 The rest of this paper details the government’s preferred option (Option 1: Establish legislative mechanisms focused on filling key gaps in EEZ environmental regulation and promoting a consistent approach across statutes, including assessment of cumulative effects). This would involve a new regime for the consideration, approval and regulation of those activities not already covered by existing statutory frameworks. Consideration and approval would focus on the environmental effects of the activity.

3.4 This option would involve:

  • requiring approval under legislation for activities that are likely to have adverse effects on the natural and physical environment
  • requiring an evaluation of the environmental effects of these activities
  • considering cumulative effects across activities
  • a precautionary approach to the regulation of effects
  • establishing criteria for assessing the effects of activities
  • rules defining the thresholds for when activities require approval from government
  • providing a strategic process to determine further rules that would apply to specified geographical areas and activities as information, understanding and changing circumstances allow - these rules may prohibit or provide for certain activities in particular areas
  • assessment of proposals when appropriate, requiring from the applicants information and consultation scaled to the nature and size of the potential effects
  • issuing approvals (or permits or consents) for activities, containing conditions and the term of any approval
  • mechanisms to ensure this new regime is coordinated with and recognises the management of activities under other laws, including the management of cumulative effects
  • providing for the effects of new activities on existing uses to be taken into account
  • cost recovery provisions
  • enforcement and monitoring provisions.

The flow chart in the Executive Summary of this paper summarises what is proposed under this option.

Question 4: Do you think this approach is an appropriate and proportionate response to the problems?