A government proposal to exclude public input on exploratory deep sea oil drilling is likely to meet strong opposition from iwi and local authorities. 

Minister for the Environment Amy Adams yesterday released a discussion document suggesting all applications for drilling in the Exclusive Economic Zone that would see all permits going straight to the Environmental Protection Authority as non-notified applications.

Gisborne District Council made a submission on the current legislation during its development that expressed concern that decisions made on EEZ marine consents will be “based on trade offs between the environmental effects of proposed activities, that largely manifest locally, and the national economic benefits, that often are not realised locally.” For this reason Council wanted to ensure “all applications for marine permits are publicly notified.”

Mr Caddie points out that exploratory wells like the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico and Montara disaster in Western Australia have been responsible for the worst disasters in recent years. “This year there have been at least two more well blowouts in the Gulf of Mexico, Apache Corporation in February and the Hercules gas well blowout last month that destroyed the whole rig after it was abandoned and burnt for days.”

District Councillor Manu Caddie says the changes are another undermining of democracy as the EPA is made up of political appointments and a presentation he recently attended suggested EPA officials know little about resource management issues. 

“The EPA senior officials were asked questions about issues like baseline monitoring and cumulative effects but did not seem to understand what those concepts even are. So there is not much confidence in this body to do a decent assessment of potential impacts, let alone the issue of excluding the public, iwi and local authorities from any input.” 

Mr Caddie will be joining a ‘Demo for Democracy at 2pm on Monday outside National MP Anne Tolley’s office. The protest is part of a national series of demonstrations by New Zealanders concerned about the raft of legislation being passed under urgency that demonstrators believe undermines democratic principles.

“The petroleum industry says they have nothing to hide, so why would the government want to deny Kiwis the right to make a submission on any proposal to drill in deep water where the risks are much higher than any current wells drilled in New Zealand?”

Submissions on the proposal are due by 5pm on 25 September. 

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