03, Jun, 2010

EPA decision welcomed but hard task ahead

Category: ECO Inc

The Government decision to establish an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fully fledged is welcomed but more detail is needed to determine whether it will be effective or have the funds to be effective.

ECO was responding to announcement today from the Minister for the Environment, Nick Smith, to establish an EPA.

Environmental and Conservation Organisations co-chair Barry Weeber, said that while ECO welcomed the establishment of a comprehensive EPA, it faces many challenges ahead.

“The key problem with the Government’s EPA proposal is the conflict between its role of fast tracking projects and establishing and implementing national standards, policies and rules and other regulations under which activities will be managed.”

Mr Weeber said to establish an agency with such serious conflicts of interest will hamstring its effectiveness. National standards and policies are urgently needed for water, clean up of toxic sites, wider air pollution standards, and land management, and biodiversity protection

“Funding is essential to ensure that the EPA is effective.” Mr Weeber said it was also crucial that the remaining Ministry for the Environment should not be starved of funds to be an effective policy and management agency.

“ECO looks forward to decisions on managing activity in the EEZ. At the moment, we only have international law and industry-written guidelines. What we need is integrated management of human activities on the oceans.”

Mr Weeber said there is no equivalent of the Resource Management Act to control oil and gas, mining and other activities outside of the territorial sea (12 nautical miles offshore).

“Governments have long recognised gaps in environmental law and as part of the Ocean’s policy process. National at one stage committed to a full oceans policy, and the previous Labour Government proposed in 2007 to fill “key gaps in EEZ environmental regulation and promote a consistent approach to environmental management across different statutes.”

“Relying on the Maritime Transport Act and voluntary codes or practice is not sufficient, and the oil industry itself has recognised the need for change.”

“There is considerable interest in seabed mining, as well as oil and gas, but many other activities have impacts on the environment or conflict, so a much more integrated approach to management is needed. Most particularly, there must be science independent of the economic interests, and there must be opportunities for the public to participate, and that sufficient information be to hand prior to decisions being made to allow exploitation.”

“The latest oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico shows that greater management of the oil industry is needed particularly in deeper water.”

Mr Weeber said ECO hoped the Government would give a high legislative priority to introduce EPA legislations, new oceans law and ratify important international maritime agreements.”

“ECO welcomed an independent review of the risks of the mineral sector and hoped that it was a truly independent review.”

Mr Weeber said ECO hopes this review will be open to public scrutiny and submissions.

For further information, contact Barry Weeber 021 738 807,or Cath Wallace on 021 891 994.


  1. ECO – the Environment and Conservation Organisations was established in 1972 and represents 67 groups with a concern for the environment.
  2. The Government’s proposal for an EPA includes merging the functions of the Environmental Risk Management Authority with some functions of the Emissions Trading Scheme and hazardous substances from Ministry of Economic Development, and fast tracking large projects from Ministry for the Environment.
  3. The inclusions of powers to manage resource management in the Exclusive Economic Zone (12 to 200 nautical miles offshore) or on the extended continental shelf has not been decided by Cabinet according to the released decisions.
  4. The Resource Management Act controls environmental aspects of oil and gas mining out to 12 nautical miles offshore, the edge of the territorial sea. The Maritime Transport Act covers some aspects of safety and environmental provisions for oil and gas activity on the Exclusive Economic Zone (from 12 to 200 nautical miles offshore) and the continental shelf but this did not include key environmental controls which led to the adoption of some unenforceable voluntary codes.
  5. Voluntary guidelines which have no legislative force include:
    • Environmental Best Practice Guidelines for the Offshore Petroleum Industry (see http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/oceans/offshore-petroleum-industry-guidelines-mar06/index.html)
    • Department of Conservation guidelines to minimise disturbance on marine mammals of mineral seismic surveys.
  6. There are no environmental regulations under the Continental Shelf Act or the Crown Minerals Act and no public processes.
  7. The prosals to develop gap filling legislation were consulted on in 2007 and 2008. Information can be found on the Ministry for the Environment website
  8. The Maui gasfield, the Tui oil field, and the Kupe gas field are found offshore Taranaki outside the area managed by the Resource Management Act in relatively shallow water. The Tui field is located about 50km offshore at a water depth of about 120m. Kupe is a gas and light oil field about 30km offshore at water depth of about 35m.
  9. The new Raukumara permit area granted to Brazilian company Petrobras has deepwater down to 3000m. Earlier this year the Government granted permits in the Canterbury Basin area offshore from Dunedin which is in deep water of more than 1000 metres. Anadarko and Origin are involved in a joint venture to fund exploratory drilling. Other areas being looked at offshore including the Great South Basin are in much deeper water than current operating fields and would be challenging to deal with any spill. The Crown is also promoting two other deepwater petroleum blocks off the North Island in the Northland and Reinga Basins which close on 18 August.
  10. New Zealand has yet to ratify a range of maritime laws under the International Maritime Organisation. These include:
    • Protocol of 2003 to the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage, 1992 (Fund Protocol);
    • International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage, 2001 (Bunkers Convention);
    • Protocol of 1996 to amend the International Convention on the Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims 1976 (LLMC Protocol);
    • Protocol Relating to Intervention on the High Seas in Cases of Pollution by Substances other than Oil 1973, as amended (Intervention Protocol);
    • Protocol on Preparedness, Response and Co-operation to Pollution Incidents by Hazardous and Noxious Substances 2000 (OPRC-HNS Protocol).
    • International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea, 1996 (HNS Convention)
    • Marine Pollution (MARPOL) Annexes: Annex IV and VII:
      • Annex IV: Prevention of pollution by sewage from ships, entered into force in 2003. A revised Annex was adopted in 2004.
      • Annex VI: Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships 1997, entered into force in 2005.
    • International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships, 2001 (Anti-fouling);
    • International Convention for Control and management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004 (Ballast Water).