An environmental lobby group says the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has not met its legal obligations to properly ensure the Anadarko oil exploration project can clean up any oil spills.
Drilling a deep sea exploration well is about to begin off the coast of Taranaki and chairperson of the Environmental Defence Society Gary Taylor says the EPA is legally required to sign off on Anadarko's environmental impact assessment.
"What we discovered is that an essential part of that assessment, namely the emergency response plan, which is how Anadarko would deal with an oil spill hasn't been seen."
But EPA chief executive Rob Forlong said Maritime New Zealand had fulfilled its legal role by assessing the emergency response plan for oil spills, and he was comfortable his agency had also complied with the law.
"We've had an overview of the emergency response plan but the details of that are assessed by Maritime New Zealand who have the expertise in that area.
"We've made our assessment and we are very confident that we've managed this process correctly under the law."
However, the Environmental Defence Society and Greenpeace are unhappy it takes weeks for a copy of the emergency response plan to be released under the Official Information Act.
They said the public would have no idea whether the measures Anadarko proposed were fit for purpose.