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Closed-shop consenting for oil exploration sub-standard, EDS says

Tuesday 30th April 2013

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New Zealand will not be able to claim "world class" oil and gas sector regulation if it pushes ahead with a plan that would stop public hearings on resource consents for oil exploration in the country's Exclusive Economic Zone, says the Environmental Defence Society.

The commitment to world class regulation was in conflict with a proposed process which would see applications for exploration with the country's 200 nautical mile EEZ not requiring public notification or submissions, and handled by the "politically appointed" Environmental Protection Authority.

"There would be no opportunity for third parties to be heard by an independent hearings panel, no opportunity to question the applicant on its environmental record or intentions, and no opportunity to call expert evidence on the environmental effects of the exploration activity," said EDS chair Gary Taylor.

His comments come after Energy Minister Simon Bridges unveiled the 2013 block offer for oil and gas exploration, including some 190,000 square kilometres of offshore acreage, much of it in the EEZ.

"Public scrutiny is an essential component of best practice environmental regulation. A closed-shop consenting regime is not transparent and raises the possibility of agency capture and political influence," said Taylor.

"Given the extreme consequences if something goes wrong this is quite unacceptable."

While EDS did not oppose oil and gas exploration, but "we want to see best practice out there to protect our ocean and coastlines."

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