The Government's oil and gas exploration permit policy is ludicrous and reckless, a leading environmental lawyer says.
At the end of last month, Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges unveiled several new areas for oil and gas exploration - three onshore and four offshore areas.
Dayle Takitimu, a lawyer for Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, has been at the forefront of efforts to prevent exploration in the iwi's East Coast rohe and has advocated for other iwi on environmental issues.
She is critical of the Government's permit policy.
"I think it's ludicrous, it's foolhardy, it's reckless. It borders on criminal negligence for our Government to be permitting this kind of activity, knowing the risks - and they do now know the risks, because, if anything, that's what the protest movement has put front and centre in front of them."
Ms Takitimu said the world was in an era of so-called extreme oil and areas in New Zealand not previously seen as attractive were now being targeted.
She said that showed a level of desperation on the part of the oil companies and she was concerned at the level of regulation over them.
"They've got virtually no regulation out there. Any regulation they do have has come about as a response to the protest movement, but still they don't have enough," she said.
"There's very scant regulation, which is why it's been seen as attractive and why it's been touted by the Government as attractive to explorers."
'World-class regulatory framework'
Mr Bridges said in a statement that he did not accept Ms Takitimu's comments and the Government had built a "world-class regulatory framework" to ensure any oil and gas development was done in an environmentally responsible and safe way.
"Before they even start exploratory drilling, an operator must have passed multiple and robust layers of regulatory checks and balances, administered by NZP&M, the EPA, WorkSafe NZ, and Maritime NZ."
Mr Bridges noted the Government's move to pass Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) legislation to protect the country's oceans beyond its 12-mile territorial sea limit.
He said the Government recognised some of the concerns of those who opposed continued oil and gas exploration in New Zealand.
"We also agree that the world has to transition to a lower carbon economy but it's wrong to think we can turn off the tap overnight. It is very clear that the world will need, for quite some time, both non-renewable and renewable sources of energy," he said.
"Dayle Takitimu should also bear in mind the oil and gas industry is an important part of the New Zealand economy - it has been operating for over 45 years, and brings in over $700 million per year in royalties and taxes, which is invested back in our communities to pay for essential infrastructure like schools, hospitals and roads."