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Frequently asked questions

Exclusive Economic Zone

What are the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf?

  • The Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is the area of sea, seabed and subsoil from 12 to 200 nautical miles offshore.
  • The Continental Shelf (CS) is the seabed and subsoil of New Zealand’s submerged landmass where it extends beyond the EEZ.  

What is the EEZ Act?

The Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environment Effects) Bill was introduced to the House on 24 August 2011 and was enacted on 3 September 2012. It came into force on 28 June 2013. 
The Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects—Non-notified Activities) Regulations 2014 came into effect on 28 February 2014.
The EEZ Act was amended by the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environment Effects) Amendment Act 2013 which was enacted on 22 October 2013. Relevant provisions of the Amendment Act came into force with the EEZ – non-notified activities Regulations.

Read the EEZ (non-notified activities) Regulations 2014 (New Zealand Legislation website)

Read the EEZ Amendment Act (New Zealand Legislation website)

The Ministry for the Environment is the policy agency responsible for the development of the EEZ legislation. More information on the policy behind the legislation, as well as the process used to develop the legislation and associated regulations, can be found on their website. 

What types of activity are controlled by the legislation?

The Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environment Effects) Act ( the EEZ Act) forms a part of New Zealand’s marine management regime. Other controls exist for activities in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) – for example, fishing and shipping. 

The types of activity in the EEZ and Continental Shelf that are managed under the EEZ Act include:

  • exploration for petroleum and minerals
  • extraction of petroleum and minerals
  • aquaculture
  • carbon capture and storage
  • marine energy generation.

Some activities that are managed under the EEZ Act have regulatory requirements under other Acts as well.

When did the EPA start its functions relating to the EEZ and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act?

The EPA started its EEZ functions when EEZ Act came into force on 28 June 2013. 

What is the role of the EPA under the EEZ Act?

Generally, the EPA’s EEZ role is about:

  • receiving information about permitted activities
  • receiving information about transitional provisions for existing and planned petroleum prospecting and exploration activities (See the FAQ below: 'How does the EEZ Act apply to activities that were taking place before the Act came into force?')
  • making rulings about the potential adverse effects of changes to existing petroleum structures and pipelines in the EEZ and Continental Shelf
  • assessing and deciding on marine consent applications
  • undertaking the monitoring and enforcement of activities in New Zealand’s EEZ and Continental Shelf that are managed under the Act and its regulations 
  • keeping records and making information available
  • promoting public awareness of the requirements of the Act.

What activities are permitted?

Permitted activities:

  • Seismic surveying
  • Marine scientific research
  • Submarine cabling
  • Prospecting for petroleum and minerals
  • Exploration for minerals (excluding exploration drilling).

All other activities managed under the EEZ Act require a marine consent, or are managed through the transitional provisions. (See the FAQ below: 'How does the EEZ Act apply to activities that were taking place before the EEZ Act came into force?')

How does the EEZ Act apply to activities that were taking place before the EEZ Act came into force?

The EEZ Act includes ‘transitional provisions’ for activities that were underway or planned before the Act came into force. The transitional provisions treat some existing activities as if they were already compliant with the EEZ Act (this type of provision is sometimes known as ‘grandparenting’). For other existing activities, there is a period of time in which the operator must comply with – and come up to speed with – the EEZ Act.

The transitional provisions apply to existing petroleum activities for a period of 6 months, and planned petroleum activities for a period of 12 months, from the date the Act comes into force. Operators of these activities must provide the EPA with an impact assessment, but do not need a marine consent unless their activity will continue beyond the transitional period.

There are separate requirements for existing structures used for petroleum mining.

If you require further information about the transitional provisions, please contact us by email: eez.info@epa.govt.nz or phone: +64 4 916 2426

What is the notified marine consent process and how long does it take?

A notified marine consent process is a process where the public are notified of the application for a marine consent so that people can make submissions on the application.

A notified marine consent process involves lodgement, acceptance of the application, public notification, submissions, a hearing, and consideration of the application.

Applications will be publically notified by a notice in daily newspapers in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin; and in a daily newspaper in the region adjacent to where the proposed activity would take place. Applications will also be notified through our website.

The EEZ Act sets out the timeframes for the stages of a notified marine consent.

Read more about the statutory timeframe for processing EEZ applications:

Timeframes for notified marine consent process (pdf, 92kb) 

The EPA encourages people who are considering making an application for a marine consent to discuss their proposals with us well in advance of formal lodgement. Early discussions enable us to identify in advance any further information we might require in order to understand what is proposed and what the impacts are likely to be. This helps ensure processing happens in a timely way and within the statutory timeframes.

(To learn more about pre-lodgment, see the FAQ below: ‘What should I do before I lodge a marine consent application?')

What is the non-notified marine consent process?

The Government has introduced a new, non-notified, discretionary classification to the EEZ regime. The Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects—Non-notified Activities) Regulations 2014 came into effect on 28 February 2014.

The EEZ (non-notified activities) Regulations classify activities involved in exploratory drilling for oil and gas as non-notified discretionary. These activities can only be undertaken if the applicant obtains a marine consent from the EPA. The EPA may grant or decline the marine consent, and if consent is granted, the EPA can place conditions on the marine consent which will be monitored and enforced.

Applications for non-notified activities are not publicly notified. The EPA cannot consider public submissions or information proffered to it. In making its decision on an application, the EPA will consider whether it needs to request further information or advice in accordance with the EEZ Act.

The EPA has up to 60 working days in which to assess and make its decision on the application. The application will be published on the EPA website. The decision on the application will also be published on the EPA website.

Read the EEZ (non-notified activities) Regulations 2014 (New Zealand Legislation website)

What should I do before I lodge a marine consent application?

We encourage all potential applicants to talk with us early in the process, and provide drafts of information before lodging a final application.

This informal and voluntary process is called ‘pre-lodgement’ and enables the EPA to identify in advance any further information we might require in order to understand what is proposed and what the impacts are likely to be.

We do recover costs for the pre-lodgement discussions, but you will be informed before this occurs.

The EPA does not undertake an assessment of the merits of the application in this informal pre-lodgement process.

What needs to be included in a marine consent application?

A marine consent application needs to include an impact assessment and should also address the evaluation criteria set out in sections 59 to 61 of the EEZ Act.

The impact assessment will need to include information as set out in section 39 of the EEZ Act. This includes information about the proposed activity, the existing environment, any alternative locations or methods for what is proposed, any effects on the environment and existing interests, any consultation undertaken, and the measures proposed to avoid, remedy or mitigate the adverse effects. Measures to avoid, remedy or mitigate effects could include measures required under other marine management or health and safety regimes.

How can the public comment on a notified marine consent application?

Any person can put in a submission on any publicly notified application for a marine consent. Applications will be notified via a public notice on the EPA’s website, in the four major newspapers in New Zealand, and the daily newspaper in the region adjacent to where the proposed activity would take place. 

In the submission, submitters can indicate that they wish to speak (ie, ‘be heard’) at the hearing. Submitters may also wish to provide expert evidence in support of their submission.

Can the public comment on a non-notified marine consent application?

Marine consent applications for non-notified activities are not publicly notified.  The EPA cannot consider public submissions or information proffered to it. In making its decision on an application, the EPA will consider whether it needs to request further information or advice in accordance with the EEZ Act.

Applicants will still be required to identify and consult with existing interest holders (including iwi authorities and Māori groups) who may be affected by the proposed activity. 
 

How should iwi be included in the process?

The EPA has outlined its expectations for Māori engagement in an operational policy that can be found on the Te Hautū area of our website. There is also advice and guidelines to support engagement activities.

Marine consent applications need to include information about the effects of the proposed activity on existing interests; and will need to outline measures to avoid, remedy or mitigate those effects. Existing interests include those identified through historical and contemporary Treaty of Waitangi Settlements (including the Fisheries Claim Settlement Act 1992) and customary marine title; and protected customary rights granted under the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011.

The best and most appropriate way of obtaining and understanding information about the effects of any proposed activity on these existing interests is to engage directly with representatives of the interests.

Specific obligations

The EPA and applicants also have specific obligations to notify a range of Māori groups and organisations, for both notified marine consent applications and permitted activities.

The EPA also has specific obligations to serve a copy of a marine consent application to affected Māori groups and other potentially affected parties (including existing interest holders) for a non-notified marine consent application. 

We encourage applicants to discuss their proposals with the EPA early in the process, so existing interests can be identified early on.

Māori Advisory group

In addition, the EPA has a statutory Māori Advisory Group (Ngā Kaihautū Tikanga Taiao) which may provide advice from a Māori perspective directly to the EPA Board and its delegated decision makers. This advice is independent of any advice provided by staff of the EPA.

Submissions

Māori may also prepare submissions on notified marine consent applications.

Who at the EPA makes the decision on notified marine consents?

The decisions on notified marine consents are made by a committee of suitably qualified decision makers. 

The EPA Board appoints the decision makers for each application. 

Each decision-making committee includes one EPA Board member.

What is the EPA’s role after a marine consent is granted?

The primary responsibility for managing the activities under a consent rests with the consent holder, who will be expected to monitor, and report on, the exercise of the consent and the effects of the activity it authorises.

The EPA will monitor compliance and has the power to undertake enforcement action if the consent obligations aren’t met.

What other government agencies are involved in the management of activities taking place in the EEZ or Continental Shelf?

Different government agencies are responsible for different types of activity that may take place in the EEZ or CS.

Our website lists other relevant legislation and agencies:

New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals has produced guides which outline the Government’s management of petroleum exploration and production, and minerals exploration and production.

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