13 Apr 2011

Pollution laws toughened before drilling allowed - minister

2:55 pm on 13 April 2011

Environment Minister Nick Smith says there will be no drilling for oil off East Cape until legislation has been passed governing marine pollution in New Zealand's exclusive economic zone.

Seismic testing for oil deposits by Brazilian company Petrobras has stalled due to protests by Greenpeace and local Maori.

Dr Smith says the Government set out to identify risks from deep sea drilling in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico disaster last year.

He says deficiencies were found in environmental protection in the exclusive economic zone and he and officials have tried to produce legislation to deal with this.

Dr Smith says drilling will not take place until the legislation has been passed into law.

However, Green Party MP Gareth Hughes says the company will be drilling a well as part of its testing regime, with all the risk that entails.

Petrobras is conducting a survey of 12,000 square kilometres of seabed determine whether oil or gas are likely to be under the ocean floor in commercial quantities.

The company has a permit to search for oil and gas and a legal obligation to continue under the terms of an agreement with the Government.