Exclusive Economic Zone Act

The EEZ Act regulates the environmental effects of petroleum activities beyond the territorial sea. It allows the Minister for the Environment to recommend regulations classifying activities as permitted, non-notified discretionary, discretionary or prohibited. Permitted activities may occur without a marine consent, if the specified conditions are complied with. If an activity is classified as non-notified discretionary or discretionary a marine consent is required for the activity to be carried out. Prohibited activities may not occur.

The Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects – Permitted Activities) Regulations 2013 permit seismic surveying if the person undertaking the seismic surveying complies with the Department of Conservation’s 2013 Code of Conduct for Minimising Acoustic Disturbance to Marine Mammals from Seismic Survey Operations 2220 , which is discussed further below.

The regulations also permit prospecting and exploration for petroleum (except for any drilling for petroleum). For these activities the regulations put in place a number of requirements, including those to:

  • Notify the EPA and relevant iwi of information about the activity, its location, and timeframe
  • Prepare an initial environmental assessment and sensitive environments contingency plan (discussed further and described in Chapter 3: EEZ legislation) and provide these to the EPA (see below for what these should contain)
  • Notify the EPA of commencement
  • Keep a logbook recording the details of the person undertaking the permitted activity, description of the permitted activity, location of the permitted activity, details of every sensitive environment encountered and measures taken to avoid, mitigate or remedy adverse effects, and details of where no sensitive environment was encountered
  • Take all reasonable measures to avoid, remedy or mitigate adverse effects on any sensitive environment encountered
  • Ensure no more material is removed than is reasonably necessary to undertake the activity
  • Ensure no material removed is sold
  • Notify the EPA of completion

Schedule 2 of the EEZ Act details that an initial environmental assessment and sensitive environments contingency plan must:

  • describe the activity concerned;
  • state the co-ordinates of the area within which the activity will be conducted;
  • describe in general terms (using the best available information 2222 ) the environment likely to be encountered when the activity is being undertaken;
  • identify and describe any sensitive environments that are likely to exist within the area;
  • detail the methods that will be used to undertake the activity; and
  • in relation to any sensitive environment that is likely to be encountered - assess the feasibility of carrying out the activity in another location; and assess the feasibility of measures that could be taken to reduce the amount of contact with the seabed, carry out alternative lower-impact activities and change the methods of operation to lower the impact of the activity on the environment

The regulations also require the EPA to monitor permitted activities to determine whether they are being undertaken in accordance with the conditions imposed by the regulations.

No prohibited activities are identified in the regulations, so a marine consent can be sought to authorise petroleum drilling and mining activity anywhere within New Zealand’s EEZ and extended continental shelf.

The EEZ Act will also regulate discharges and dumping from offshore installations as well as discharges from ships if it is a mining related discharge, once regulations are made. Discharges and dumping from vessels continues to be regulated under the Maritime Transport Act. To date, regulations have not been promulgated although draft Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects – Discharge and Dumping) Regulations 2014 have been released for feedback.

To date, the EPA has considered two non-notified applications for marine consent for oil and gas exploration wells from Shell Todd Oil Services Ltd and OMV New Zealand Ltd. Both OMV New Zealand and Shell Todd Oil Services commenced drilling under the transitional provisions of the EEZ Act but were required to seek a marine consent because drilling was not able to be completed before 28 June 2014. The OMV New Zealand application was to drill two exploration wells near the Maari platform in the South Taranaki Bight. The wells will be drilled in a water depth of 98 metres and to a total depth of 2839 metres. 2223  The Shell Todd application was to drill two exploration wells near the Māui field in the South Taranaki Bight.  The wells will be drilled in a water depth of 105-108 metres and to a total depth of 3370-5183 metres. 2224  Both applications were granted.

  1. http://www.doc.govt.nz/Documents/conservation/native-animals/marine-mammals/2013-seismic-survey-code-of-conduct.pdf

  2. best available information means the best information that, in the particular circumstances, is available without unreasonable cost, effort, or time

  3. http://www.epa.govt.nz/EEZ/applications_EEZ/Non-notified_consents/Documents/EEZ0202OMV_Whio1_FINAL_decsion.pdf

  4. http://www.epa.govt.nz/Publications/141013_EZ0201STO_Marine_Consent_Decision_Revision_1.pdf

Last updated at 1:41PM on February 25, 2015