30 Oct 2018

Govt slammed over 'poor process' of rushed offshore exploration bill

10:14 am on 30 October 2018

The government is being accused of rushing through legislation to halt new offshore oil exploration permits to avoid scrutiny.

No caption

Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

The bill has been reported back to Parliament by the Environment Select Committee with very few changes and is set to become law.

The committee received 2249 submissions and heard oral evidence from 95 submitters.

But it was an unusually tight timeframe - submissions had to be in by 11 October and the committee had to consider them all, hear the evidence then report back to Parliament just 18 days later.

National's energy spokesperson Jonathan Young said the rushed process was largely negligent.

"There were a number quite substantial submitters who felt there wasn't enough time for people to take consideration of what the bill was proposing. For example, no time for any regional or district councils outside of Taranaki to look at what it is going to mean for them to have an exploration ban over the whole of the country."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the process had to be done quickly.

"This is now a process we're going through in order to allow the block offer for 2018 to go ahead, that's something that we want to make sure that we progress this calendar year."

However, Petroleum and Production Association of New Zealand chief executive Cameron Madgwick said the industry was happy to forgo this year's block offer to allow more time to consider the bill.

"Our very strong and clear preference is for a proper, robust evidence-based process here so it's not for the benefit of the industry that block offer 18 needs to be run.

"We've quite clearly said in writing that's not something we would want in exchange for such a poor process."

One of the submissions was from a committee of the Parliamentary Counsel Office, which has the job of drafting legislation.

It raised concerns about a lack of consultation before the bill was introduced and highlighted that no reason was provided for why time limitations were imposed on getting the law change to Parliament.

Mr Young said broad consultation was critical to make sure the public would have faith in law that was passed.

The reason for the rush was more likely that the government did not want it attracting too much attention, he said.

"They're rushing it through because they seem to feel as though this is an area where New Zealand can offer world leadership," Mr Young said.

"I contend that's not the case, I don't think Australia is going to listen to New Zealand. They're about to become the biggest exporters of LNG [liquefied natural gas] in the world, so the little gains that we might find in New Zealand where this industry diminishes are going to swallowed up by Australia in a matter of weeks."

The legislation will be back before the house on Thursday for its second reading.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs