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EEZ environmental management Bill needs amendment

MEDIA RELEASE – For immediate use, Friday 17 February 2012

EEZ environmental management Bill needs amendment, says Law Society

A new bill aimed at establishing an environmental regime for New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf should be amended to make it consistent with the Resource Management Act 1991 and international law, the New Zealand Law Society said today.

The Law Society submission on the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill was presented to Parliament’s Local Government and Environment Committee by Law Society Environmental Law Committee member Robert Makgill.

Mr Makgill said inconsistencies between the Bill, New Zealand’s international obligations and the Resource Management Act raised doubt about the ability of the Bill to achieve integrated management, which was a touchstone of modern environmental law.

“The way in which parts of the Bill are drafted is at odds with key international environmental law principles such as ‘sustainable development’ and the ‘precautionary approach’,” he said.

The Bill sets out to establish an environmental regime for implementing New Zealand’s rights and obligations under the Law of the Sea Convention 1982. It would cover seabed mining, some petroleum activities, energy generation, carbon capture and storage and marine farming.

Mr Makgill said the lack of clear direction on international obligations was carried over into inconsistencies between the Bill and the Resource Management Act. There were differences in purpose, a failure to include matters of national importance and differing definitions of terms.

“If the Bill goes through in its present form, there could be some serious consequences for New Zealand. It would mean different management regimes applied either side of the outer limit of the territorial sea, a failure to reflect international law and New Zealand’s obligations under it, and there would be costs for the Crown, applicants, submitters and decision-makers whenever there were applications for activities which straddled the jurisdictional line of the territorial sea.”

Mr Makgill said the Law Society believed the Bill should be amended to make it consistent with the Resource Management Act and international law.

This would require the purpose of the Bill to be amended to “sustainable management” as defined in the Resource Management Act, inclusion of New Zealand’s key international obligations, careful consideration of matters which should be seen as of national importance in decision-making, and replacing the words “cautious approach” with “precautionary approach” in order to reduce any unintentional ambiguity.


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