06, Apr, 2011

Government should stop deep sea oil drilling

Category: ECO Inc

The Government should stop deep sea oil drilling, the Environment and Conservation Organisations said today.

Environmental and Conservation Organisations co-chair Barry Weeber, said ECO supported the Te Whanau a Apanui call to stop Petrobras drilling in the deepwater Raukumara Basin .

Mr Weeber said New Zealand does not have the environmental laws and regulations to control oil and gas or other development on the continental shelf.

Mr Weeber said governments had recognised for over 10 years gaps in environmental law and as part of the Ocean’s policy process had proposed in 2007 to fill “key gaps in EEZ environmental regulation and promote a consistent approach to environmental management across different statutes.”

“There is no equivalent of the Resource Management Act to control oil and gas activity outside of the territorial sea (12 nautical miles offshore).”

Mr Weeber said the Government needs to urgently fill gaps in maritime law so it has measures in place to control oil exploration, mining and other activity on the continental shelf and in the EEZ.” Mr Weeber said even the oil industry recognises the need for this law.

“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.”

Mr Weeber said that the voluntary guidelines, including those on marine mammal interaction, were not sufficient for the management of the environmental aspects of oil and gas exploration and development.

“The Government has yet to give legislative priority to introduce new oceans law or ratify important international maritime law.”

Mr Weeber noted that the previous government was drafting oceans law prior to the election to fill the current gaps and ratify international agreements but this had not yet been taken up by the current government.

Mr Weeber said climate change considerations and the absence of the ability to respond to disastrous oil spills like that which occurred last year with the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico shows the Government needs to rethink its approach.


1. ECO – the Environment and Conservation Organisations was established in 1972 and represents 67 groups with a concern for the environment.

2. 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.

3. Voluntary guidelines which have no legislative force include:

· Environmental Best Practice Guidelines for the Offshore Petroleum Industry (see

· Department of Conservation guidelines to minimise disturbance on marine mammals of mineral seismic surveys. These guidelines are currently under review.

4. There are no environmental regulations under the Continental Shelf Act or the Crown Minerals Act. When compared to Australia, Brazil , Canada , US, and the UK , NZ is the only country without a formal consent, referral, permit or environmental assessment process for offshore seismic operations.

5. The Guidelines for Minimising Acoustic Disturbance to Marine Mammals from Seismic Survey Operations‘ are currently being reviewed. The review has shown that other countries considered –( Australia , Brazil , Canada , US, and the UK ) have mandatory requirements.

6. The proposals to develop gap filling legislation were consulted on in 2007 and 2008. Information can be found on the Ministry for the Environment website

7. 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 but 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.

8. The Petrobras permit is in water up to 3000m deep which is much deeper than current operating fields and would be challenging to deal with any spill.

9. 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)

Other maritime law not ratified by New Zealand include:

· Marine Pollution (MARPOL) Annexes: Annex IV and VI:

· 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).

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