16 May 2012

Parties reject bill to regulate territorial waters

3:08 pm on 16 May 2012

Opposition parties are rejecting the Government's bill to regulate New Zealand's seabed and continental shelf.

The Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf Environmental Effects Bill has just been reported back to Parliament by select committee.

The bill regulates activities such as seabed mining, petroleum exploration and extraction, which do not fall under existing legislation and will have the numbers to pass.

The Greens, Labour and New Zealand First all support the bill's intent, but will not vote for it in its current form because they say it does not provide enough environmental protection.

Labour's deputy leader Grant Robertson says in its current form, the bill will favour people applying to carry out these activities.

"There's limited rights to appeal decisions under this new legislation. What we think is needed here is a robust regime where New Zealanders can have confidence that the rules are in place to protect and preserve the environment and those who will be looking to undertake activity in the EEZ are certain about the rules."

The Green Party believes the legislation is weak and will result in risky deep-sea drilling.

Gareth Hughes, the party's spokesperson for oceans, told Morning Report the bill tries to balance economic development against the environment and is inconsistent with New Zealand's obligations under the International United Nations Convention on the law of the sea.

"It's so important we get this right and the framework we put in place is likely to exist for decades. The projects we're talking about like seabed, mining, deep-sea drilling could potentially have a huge impact on our economy.

"While we want to protect our environment, we do this by also impacting the economy. Our economy depends on our environment."

But select committee chair and National MP Nicky Wagner told [Morning Report the legislation will not result in risky seabed mining.

"What we think is really important is that we do have some legislation here and every submitter that came to speak to us at select committee was pleased that this legislation was coming into place."

Environment Minister Amy Adams says the legislation responds to a regulatory gap.