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Right to know about oil exploration

Media Release: Right to know about oil exploration
Wednesday, 4 September 2013
Press Release: Aotearoa Human Rights Lawyers Association

The government is planning to make the New Zealand public’s right to know about offshore oil drilling strictly discretionary.

The release on Wednesday from Environment Minister Amy Adams of a supplementary order paper (SOP) to the Marine Legislation Bill that makes the notification obligations under the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf Act discretionary, meaning the question of notification it will be up to the discretion of the Environmental Protection Agency.

By removing the obligation to notify oil exploration it makes it much more difficult for the public to have a say over the environmental and economic management of New Zealand. There are also significant concerns over the process by which this has been handled.

“The expanding use of supplementary order papers is an extremely worrying trend, especially when it concerns peoples’ fundamental rights,” said HRLA co-chair David Tong.

“Public opposition to the so-called ‘Anadarko amendment’, which was clearly in breach of section 14 of the Bill of Rights Act, has inspired the government to pursue other avenues to pass potentially unpopular legislation.”

“Using a supplementary order paper to change the content of a Bill once it has already gone through the Select Committee process is a cynical move that subverts the democratic process, and is arguably a breach of Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the right to take part in the government.”

“Environmental regulation must be part of the democratic agenda, rather than shifting control of our natural resources into fewer and fewer hands.”

The move follows a decision by the Gisborne District Council not to notify resource consent applications from TAG Oil Ltd and Apache Corporation NZ relating to a proposed exploratory on-shore well.

HRLA will be submitting on the SOP, and will be encouraging its members to do the same.

ENDS

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