Consent processes

There are two marine consent process tracks for discretionary activities: notified and non-notified.

In a notified marine consent process the public are notified of the application and are able to make submissions on the application. The process involves lodgement, acceptance of the application as complete, public notification, submissions, a hearing and consideration of the application. The applicant or submitters may appeal the decision to the High Court on points of law.

The timeframes for each stage of the notified process are set out in the diagram below.

The Trans-Tasman Resources Ltd Marine Consent Decision noted that the EEZ Act establishes “demanding timeframes for the processing of and decision-making on applications for marine consents” which are “a source of considerable challenge for all parties”. 23 If you are participating in a marine consent process it is important that you are fully aware of the relevant deadlines and make the most of the time available to you.

In a non-notified marine consent process the public are not notified of an application and are unable to make submissions on the application. The EPA has up to 50 working days to assess and make its decision on the application after determining that the application is complete. 24

The following sections describe the marine consent process in more detail. They apply to both the notified and non-notified process tracks unless otherwise specified.

An application for a marine consent must be lodged with the EPA and must include an impact assessment. 25 The impact assessment must be in such detail that corresponds to the scale and significance of the environmental effects and must: 26

  • describe the activity for which consent is sought;
  • describe the current state of the area where it is proposed that the activity will be undertaken and the environment surrounding the area;
  • identify the effects of the activity on the environment and existing interests;
  • identify persons whose existing interests are likely to be adversely affected by the activity;
  • describe any consultation undertaken and copies of any written approvals to the activity;
  • include copies of any written approvals to the activity;
  • specify any possible alternative locations for, or methods for undertaking, the activity that may avoid, remedy, or mitigate any adverse effects; and
  • specify the measures that the applicant intends to take to avoid, remedy, or mitigate the adverse effects identified.

The level of detail must correspond to the scale and significance of the effects that the activity may have on the environment and existing interests and be sufficient to enable the EPA and persons whose existing interests may be affected to understand the nature of the activity and its effects on the environment and existing interests. 27

The EPA may return an application as incomplete if it decides that an application does not include any information that is required by the Act or does not comply with the impact assessment requirements. 28

Example: In Greenpeace of New Zealand Inc v The Environmental Protection Authority [2013] NZHC 3482 Greenpeace sought judicial review of a decision by the EPA to accept as complete an impact assessment submitted by Anadarko. Greenpeace alleged that the EPA erred in law as the impact assessment included as an appendix the discharge management plan (required by Maritime New Zealand under the Maritime Transport Act 1994), but did not include its annexes, which included oil spill modelling reports, the emergency response plan, and the oil spill contingency and well control contingency plan. The High Court found that the EPA’s role under section 41 does not involve any assessment of the merits of the content of the impact assessment and is limited to assessing whether the application contains information about the required matters. The application for judicial review was unsuccessful.

Further infomation

The EPA may request an applicant to provide further information relating to the application. The EPA is required to provide a copy of any further information provided by the applicant to every submitter. 29

The EPA may commission an independent review of the impact assessment or seek advice on any other aspect of an application for a marine consent, and must make any reports or advice available to the applicant and submitters.

  1. Trans-Tasman Resources Ltd Marine Consent Decision (June 2014), at [34]

  2. Section 68(2) Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012

  3. Section 38 Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012

  4. Section 39 Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012

  5. Section 39(2) Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012

  6. Section 41 Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012

  7. Section 42 Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012

Last updated at 4:44PM on December 9, 2014