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One step not enough, says Forest & Bird

13 August 2012

One step not enough, says Forest & Bird

The government has taken one step towards better environmental protection in the Exclusive Economic Zone, but further moves are needed. Environment Minister Amy Adams’ announcement about proposed changes to the EEZ Bill is less positive than it first appears, Forest & Bird said today.

Conservation Advocate Claire Browning said she acknowledged that this was a significant move by the new Minister. “The Minister has accepted that the balance in the Bill as introduced wasn’t right. Her decision to change the purpose clause marks an important return to resource management principles, and she’s made the right decision.”

“But regrettably - because we’d like to support it - we still think that the Bill is too weak. A Bill like this is needed to manage our ocean environment, but it has to do the job that it was designed for.”

Last week the Minister announced changes would be made to the Bill, including alignment with the Resource Management Act by amending its purpose clause to require sustainable management. This was an improvement on the previous wording, which had said that the aim was to balance environmental protection and economic development.

In an earlier open letter to the Minister, Forest & Bird had previously joined the Environmental Defence Society and others in calling for compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, from which New Zealand’s right to use EEZ resources comes.

This would require the Bill to “protect and preserve” the ocean environment.

The Minister’s acknowledgement of submissions received on the Bill was welcome, including the need for certainty to reduce litigation risk and cost, the desirability of being able to rely on Resource Management Act case law, and the need to increase the Bill’s maximum penalties.

But in the Resource Management Act, the purpose clause is also supported by a list of matters of environmental importance about protection and preservation. A recommendation to do the same in the EEZ Bill has not been picked up, and is needed for the purpose clause changes to be effective, according to Forest & Bird.

Also of concern is the bigger picture presented by the new form of the EEZ Bill. Coincidentally, it seems to have been brought into line with government advisory group recommendations on Resource Management Act reform last month, to retain the Act’s section 5 purpose but rewrite its principles in sections 6 and 7.

These proposals are not supported by Forest & Bird, and have not yet been agreed to by the government.


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