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. This does not apply to seismic surveying within Te Rohe o Te Whānau Puha Whale Sanctuary established under section 11 of the Kaikōura (Te Tai o Marokura) Marine Management Act 2014.

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 Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects – Permitted Activities) Regulations 2013 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 Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects – Non-notified Activities) Regulations 2014 came into force on 28 February 2014. Under these regulations, activities undertaken for the purpose of exploratory drilling for petroleum can be processed on a non-notified basis provided the geographical area is covered by a permit or permits granted under the CMA, or the activity is authorised by an existing privilege under clause 12, Schedule 1 of the CMA.

The third set of regulations relates to the discharge and dumping of material at sea. The Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects—Discharge and Dumping) Regulations 2015 came into force on 31 October 2015. These regulations prescribe classifications for discharges, according to the originating activity, and also prescribes that some activities will be processed on a non-notified basis. It also sets out prohibited discharges.

The activities are split into discharges of sediments, discharges of oil and ecotoxic substances and discharges of garbage.

For discharges of sediments:

  • Activities are permitted where certain listed conditions are met.
  • Discharges of sediment containing prohibited radioactive material are prohibited.  Other discharges that are not permitted are discretionary.
  • A person wishing to undertake a permitted activity must provide information about the activity to the EPA no less than 40 working days before the activity commences.
  • The EPA will provide a list of iwi, hapu, customary marine title groups and protected customary rights groups whose existing interests may be affected by the activity and the person wishing to undertake the activity must notify these groups and provide information about the activity.
  • The person wishing to undertake the activity must then provide a notification report to the EPA including a copy or summary of every response received and any changes that were made as a result of the notification process.
  • A post-activity report must also be provided to the EPA within 60 working days of completing the activity.

For discharges of oil and ecotoxic substances:

  • Activities are permitted where certain listed conditions are met.
  • Other discharges are discretionary, or prohibited.
  • Every offshore installation is required to keep an oil record book which corresponds to that required by MARPOL (the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships).
  • The requirement for an offshore installation to have an emergency spill response procedure which has been approved by the EPA.

 For garbage:

  • The discharge of food waste which has been passed through an appropriate communiter or grinder is a permitted activity.
  • Other discharges of garbage or food waste are a prohibited activity.
  • The owner of an offshore installation must have a compliant garbage management plan.
  • There must be a garbage record book.

 There are further regulations relating to dumping and miscellaneous provisions.

 Part 5 of the Resource Legislation Amendment Act 2017 (RLAA) contains a number of amendments to the EEZ Act. Instead of making numerous edits to existing provisions, some sections have been replaced, although time may prove that the wording changes do not have significant effects. The key amendments arising from this were:

  • Changes to the provisions dealing with nationally significant cross-boundary activities (ie where resource consents are required under the RMA and marine consents are required under the EEZ Act and the proposal is nationally significant) aligning certain marine consent processes with the RMA process for nationally significant proposals.
  • The creation of EEZ Policy Statements.  The purpose of these are to state objectives and policies to support decision-making. EEZ Policy Statements are to be prepared with public consultation, however the Minister can determine the exact process to be adopted.
  • A requirement to provide decommissioning plans which comply with applicable regulations and requiring owners to apply for consents for any discretionary activities in the plans.  Previously the government had no power to force decommissioning of an installation therefore this amendment will provide for greater control over decommissioning.

 There have also been amendments to the transitional and enforcement provisions.

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. In 2017 Shell Todd Oil Services Ltd applied for marine consent and a marine discharge consent to place and remove a jack-up rig and associated activities as these activities were not covered by its existing marine consents.

  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 3:27PM on February 11, 2018