Legislation to bring in stricter enviromental regulations for oceans around New Zealand has passed its first reading in Parliament.
Environment Minister Nick Smith says the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill will protect New Zealand's oceans from the risks of oil and gas exploration.
Dr Smith says if the bill becomes law it will manage the environmental effects of activities in hundreds of millions of hectares of sea and seabed between 12 and 200 nautical miles offshore.
He says there are economic opportunities in New Zealand's exclusive economic zone, but in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster they have to be balanced against protecting the environment.
The bill passed its first reading in Parliament on Tuesday and goes to a select committee for further consideration.