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Offshore environment law to protect NZ waters next year: minister

06-03-2011 10:37 BJT

WELLINGTON, June 2 (Xinhua) -- A new ocean law that will control oil and gas exploration and seabed mining in New Zealand's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) will come into effect next year, Environment Minister Nick Smith announced Thursday.

"This area of ocean, 20 times New Zealand's land area, offers significant economic opportunities, but we must also ensure we have robust laws in place to protect the environment," Smith said at a conference in Auckland, the New Zealand Herald reported.

The new law will make the Environmental Protection Authority responsible for issuing consents, monitoring and enforcement of activities within the EEZ, which stretches from 12 km to 200 km offshore and the Extended Continental Shelf, which extends beyond the EEZ.

Smith's announcement comes just weeks after New Zealand's navy and police arrested protesters who were disrupting Brazilian company Petrobras' exploration activity in the Raukumara basin, which lies within the EEZ off East Cape.

The government has faced criticism from the Green Party and environmental groups for allowing Petrobras to go ahead with its exploration activity, which could include drilling in very deep water as well as seismic survey work, without having applicable environmental protection in place, sadi the report.

Smith told the newspaper that seismic survey work - which some claim harms marine life - was likely to be "permitted" under the new law which would come into effect in July next year, and would therefore not require consent.

However, it would be governed by regulations setting out how it could be conducted. The regulations would go out for public consultation and would replace the existing guidelines "that are unenforceable."

"More extensive exploration such as drilling would require a consent, assessment of environmental impacts, public notification and opportunities for communities to have their say," Smith was quoted as saying.


Editor:Yang Jie |Source: Xinhua

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