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EEZ Bill fails to protect the environment and NZ reputation

16 May 2012

EEZ Bill fails to protect the environment and will damage New Zealand's international reputation

The Local Government and Environment Committee's report back on the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill is extremely disappointing and a lost opportunity to put in place a robust consenting regime for the EEZ and continental shelf, according to the Environmental Defence Society.

"EDS's submission suggested comprehensive amendments to the Bill, but the minor changes recommended by the Committee do not address its major failings," said EDS Chairman Gary Taylor.

"The purpose of the Bill continues to seek to achieve a so-called "balance" between the protection of the environment and economic development. This purpose is flawed as it doesn't recognise that in some especially sensitive ocean environments, there are environmental limits which should not be breached, irrespective of the short-term economic benefits.

"The Bill also fails to comply with New Zealand's international obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea which includes an obligation on nations to 'protect and preserve" the marine environment. This risks damage to New Zealand's international reputation.

"In spite of strenuous submissions from a number of parties, the Bill still does not include a set of environmental principles to guide decision-making. Decision-makers are only required to "take into account" environmental matters alongside a shopping list of other considerations including the economic benefits of an activity.

"Another concern is the "adaptive management approach" adopted by the Bill which allows activities to proceed that would otherwise be prohibited because of environmental risks. Such an approach is not appropriate in all circumstances, particularly where there is a risk of irreversible environmental damage.

"I think most reasonable New Zealanders would have welcomed robust environmental controls around deep sea oil, gas and mineral exploitation. This Bill is greenwash and will lead to activities being approved that are dodgy and high risk.

"The select committee has missed a great opportunity to come up with effective legislation and this will strengthen the arguments of those saying that there should be no exploitation of our oceans at all. I even think some in the industry will be dismayed because moderate green groups like EDS will be reconsidering their positions on oceans exploitation.

"EDS is extremely concerned the Bill in its current form will lead to the degradation of the marine environment and we urge the Government to urgently rethink the Bill to meet New Zealand's international obligations and safeguard New Zealand's oceans," Gary Taylor concluded.

ENDS

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