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

Gary Taylor

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, the Environmental Defence Society says.

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," EDS chairman Gary Taylor says.

His comments come after Energy Minister Simon Bridges unveiled the 2013 block offer for oil and gas exploration, including some 190,000sq km 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," Mr Taylor says.

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

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

(BusinessDesk)

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9 Comments & Questions

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Is this the same guy who a week or so ago declined to comment on questions put to him here on the NBR relating to how much public money his organisation received? And here he is dribbling on about the importance of public scrutiny. What a hypocrite.

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Yes, he is and No, he has not yet answered our questions except to say what we asked about was none of our business.

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Taylor has always been political anti-progress and any organisation fronted by him should never, ever have been given any public funding.

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I am more keen than most to see oil and gas exploration within our EEZ and, hopefully, some day soon we can see an increase in production. I must say, however, that Mr Taylor makes a good point. We do need world-class regulations, and public forums are part of this.

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What do people feel so threatened about things that they want closed determinations?

I also want oil, gas and mineral exploration but I want to ensure the cornerstone environments of New Zealand aren't threatened and that we meet international standards in regulation to protect health and safety, protect the environment and ensure appropriate liabilities for those with cavalier exploration standards.

After the oil problems in the Gulf of Mexico (where 11 were killed and billions of barrels of oil destroyed key areas of the environment), we need to heed the warnings this week at the Advantage NZ petroleum conference in Auckland of Michael R Bromwich (who reformed the rules covering the United States oil explorers after the Gulf incident).

John Key says regulation will be world class and eliminate cowboys. Simon Bridges' regulatory history to date shows how much he is willing to subsume standards to attract investment. We need transparency and accountability to ensure our regulatory regimes are actually world class.

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I'd be interested to hear the views of those who dislike Thomas' comments.

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I'm a taxpayer, where my tax is spent is most definitely my business - it's called transparency.

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Excuse me, but how is your tax spent on oil/gas exploration?

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If tax is spent on Mr Taylor and his Lobby group, then it is reasonable to expect Mr Taylor to have a better response than "none of your business" isn't it?

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