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EDS calls for extension for submissions to EEZ oil bill

EDS calls for extension of time for submissions to EEZ oil bill because of Rena disaster

The Environmental Defence Society has called for an extension of tomorrow's closing date for submissions on the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill. The Bill sets out the proposed new regime for managing the environmental effects of extraction activities in our oceans.

"In particular, the Rena distaster has raised important new questions about how we should regulate oil exploration in our oceans," said EDS Chairman Gary Taylor.

"It has demonstrated very clearly the potential environmental costs of oil spills, whether from ships or from oil well malfunctions. A blown oil well could make the Rena spill look very inconsequential by comparison. The government has stated a clear intention to allow much more oil, gas and mining in our seas.

"In our view the closing date for submissions to this important Bill should be extended into the New Year for two reasons.

"First, there may well be people involved in assisting with the response to the Rena disaster who might want to make submissions on this related matter. They could be people involved in the voluntary or official efforts and they will be preoccupied at present. The local iwi will have an interest.

"Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, there will be lessons learned from Rena that might be helpful in designing this legislation. For example, the whole question of how to assess and manage risks to the marine environment is critical to this Bill. Just where and how we set the environmental thresholds for approval needs careful thought and reassessment. And who pays if something goes wrong.

"It may also be the case that some activities in some locations should be avoided altogether if the risks are too high. How those decisions are made needs review after Rena. New Zealanders views on this point are important.

"There appears to be no rush in receiving submissions as Parliament will not be sitting until well into the New Year.

"We understand that there are constitutional constraints on formally extending deadlines past the election so are calling on all parties to indicate support for such a move when the new government takes office.

"Extending the deadline until the New Year seems sensible and warranted in these circumstances", Mr Taylor concluded.

ends

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