2 Sep 2013

Public will have less say on exploration - expert

7:06 am on 2 September 2013

An expert in environmental law believes the public's say on deep sea oil and gas exploration will be reduced under a new government proposal.

Ministers want to tweak the legislation covering the Exclusive Economic Zone, the area from 12 to 200 nautical miles offshore.

The Government is keen for more direct decision-making to be handed to the Environmental Protection Authority so the industry is not "overly burdened with excessive costs and extended timeframes".

The Labour Party says the agency is being turned into a rubber stamp and public input is going out the window.

A professor at Waikato University, Barry Barton, says the proposed change is trying to balance business with the environment.

He says there's an argument that the drilling of an exploratory well might be over in a few weeks and is unlikely to have much of an effect on the environment.

But Professor Barton says the other side of the argument is that if something goes wrong there's a possibility it will go quite spectacularly wrong.

Feedback on the proposal is being taken until 25 September.