3 Jun 2010

New EPA to oversee drilling, other big projects

8:58 pm on 3 June 2010

The new Environmental Protection Authority will consider resource consents for projects in New Zealand's exclusive economic zone, such as deep sea drilling.

Environment Minister Nick Smith says the new Crown entity will process applications of national significance and will subsume the Environmental Risk Management Authority.

Announcing details of the new agency at the Environmental Defence Society conference in Auckland on Thursday, Dr Smith said it would be a one-stop shop for consents, administration and enforcement.

He says it is a stand-alone, independent agency that will consider developments of national significance such as the Transmission Gully in Wellington and Waterview in Auckland roading projects, and energy projects.

Dr Smith also announced at the conference the Government has commissioned an independent study into the safety and environmental aspects of mineral activities, sparked by the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

It follows the granting of an exploration permit for oil and gas off East Cape to the Brazilian company, Petrobras.

Dr Smith says the study will investigate whether international best practice techniques are suitable for New Zealand's exclusive economic zone.

"We do believe there are economic opportunities in developing New Zealand's offshore petroleum resources, but we are equally determined to ensure that these do not compromise New Zealand's precious marine environment."

Praise from society

Environmental Defence Society Gary Taylor praised the Government for its plans to regulate deep sea drilling.

He says the Government is right not to rush into patchwork legislation on the issue.