Process for marine consents

If you would like to undertake a specified offshore activity, there are procedures and processes to follow.

Changes to the EEZ Act were enacted on 1 June 2017 under the Resource Legislation Amendment Act 2017. Some of these changes have an effect on the marine consent processes administered by us. We have created a factsheet to help guide you through these changes.

Factsheet: Marine consent applications: when and how the public is involved (pdf 414KB)

Factsheet: Changes to the EEZ Act (pdf 153KB)

Factsheet: Decision making timeframes for marine consents (pdf 90KB)

Consents decided by a Board of Inquiry

For publicly notifiable restricted section 20 activities, the Minister for the Environment will appoint an independent board to consider the matter. The board will consider all submissions, hold a hearing (unless no-one wants to be heard), and make a final decision on the matter. 

The board runs its own process and makes a decision independently from us and the Minister.

We provide administrative support services to all boards of inquiry. This ranges from organising the logistics of the hearing to commissioning specialist advice to assist the board.

Board of inquiry membership

The Minister must consider the need for members to have knowledge, skills and experience relating to:

  • the EEZ Act
  • the activity or type of activities the board will be considering
  • tikanga Māori
  • legal expertise
  • relevant technical expertise.

A board of inquiry must have between three and five members. The chair may be a current, former or retired Environment Judge or retired High Court Judge.

Time frame for making a decision

All decisions by a board of inquiry are required to be made within nine months of the date of public notification of the matter. This means a board must consider an application, hold hearings, consider the matter, and make a decision within nine months.

Notified marine consents

The Notified marine consent process is followed for activities other than section 20 activities. This process allows the public to make submissions on the application and also choose to present their submission to the decision-making committee.

The standard time frame from lodgement to making a decision for a notified application is 170 working days (six months). We have the discretion to extend time frames by up to double those specified in the EEZ Act, or longer if the applicant agrees.

Non-notified marine consents

Exploration drilling for for oil and gas, discharges into the waters of the EEZ, and dumping waste into an authorised site have been classified in regulations as “non-notified”.  This means that, while a marine consent is required, the application will not be publicly notified and submissions from the public cannot be accepted.

Applicants are still required to identify existing interest holders who may be affected by the proposed activity. The applicant is required to describe the potential effects on those interest holders, and any consultation they have undertaken with them.

If we consider they may be affected by the application, we are required to serve copies of the application on:

  • iwi authorities
  • customary marine title groups
  • protected customary rights groups.

If we consider it appropriate, we may serve a copy of the application on:

  • Ministers with responsibilities that may be affected by the activity for which consent is sought
  • Maritime New Zealand
  • other people we consider have existing interests that may be affected by the application
  • regional councils whose regions may be affected by the application.

The standard time frame from lodgement to making a decision on a non-notified application is 70 working days. We have the discretion to extend timeframes by up to double those specified in the EEZ Act, or longer if the applicant agrees.

Stages in a marine consent process Plus

The stages in the consent process

The stages for notified and non-notified marine consent applications are set out below.

The process can change for ‘cross-boundary’ applications where the activity will take place in both the EEZ and the coastal marine area (12NM or closer to the shoreline).

Pre-lodgement

We strongly encourage applicants to talk to us before making an application. We can provide guidance about the process and information requirements.

Pre-lodgement is an opportunity, through informal dialogue, to understand the consent application processes relevant to your activity. Pre-lodgement discussions can result in a timely and efficient process once the application is lodged.

Lodgement and completeness

Once the application is lodged, we considers whether the application is complete and may return it to the applicant within 20 working days of receipt if it is not complete. If we return the application, we will provide the applicant with written reasons why it is incomplete. An applicant can object to our decision to reject their application as incomplete.

For an application to be complete it must:

  • be made using the our marine consent application form
  • fully describe the proposal
  • include an impact assessment prepared in accordance with the requirements of section 39 of the EEZ Act.

If the application is accepted, we will notify the applicant. We may seek advice from other government departments or external advisors to help with evaluating application completeness.

Further information requests

We can request further information from the applicant during the marine consent process. Further information helps the decision-makers better understand the effects of the activity on the environment or existing interests. The further information requests set out the reasons why the information is requested.

We are required to provide a copy of any further information provided by the applicant to every submitter.

Requesting advice or information

We may request advice or commission reviews to help with determining whether an application is complete, or to provide expert advice during consideration of an application. We will advise the applicant in writing that it intends to commission a review or report, or seek advice, and the reasons for doing this. We can request reports, reviews or advice at any time during processing of an application until the start of a hearing or, if there is no hearing, before a decision is made on the application.

We are required to notify the applicant and submitters that the reports or advice are available.

Public notification

For notified marine consents, we have 20 working days from accepting the application as complete to notify the application.

If you have been notified of a marine consent application by the EPA, we consider that you may have an existing interest we consider may be affected by the application.

Existing interests are:

  • Any lawfully established existing activity whether or not authorised by or under any Act or regulations. This includes rights of access, navigation and fishing such as fishing quota and annual catch entitlement (ACE) owners.
  • Any activity with a marine consent under the EEZ Act, such as existing operators in the area.
  • Any activity with a resource consent under the Resource Management Act, such as coastal permit holders.
  • Those with an interest in the settlement of a historic claim under the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975, such as Mandated Iwi Organisations and Recognised Iwi Organisations.
  • Those with an interest in the settlement of a contemporary claim under the Treaty of Waitangi as provided for in an Act, including the Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Settlement Act 1992, such as Mandated Iwi Organisations and Recognised Iwi Organisations.
  • Holders of a protected customary right or marine title recognised under the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011. These are organisations that have confirmed applications for recognition agreements with the Crown.

We collect information from different sources to notify you of an application. Resource consent holder information comes from regional and district councils. 

Submissions

The submission period runs for 30 working days from the date the application was notified.

View all the applications that are open for submissions

Find out how to make a submission

Pre-hearing

A hearing takes place if the applicant or one or more submitters asks to be heard, or if we think it's necessary or desirable to hold a hearing. For a publicly notified application, a hearing must take place within 40 working days after the submission period closes unless the time limit has been extended. For non-notified applications the hearing must be held between working day 10 and 60 of the 60 working day time frame.

Before a hearing on a publicly notified application, we will give the applicant and all submitters wishing to be heard at least 20 working days’ notice of the hearing start date, start time and location. We will also issue the hearing procedures, which set out the rules and time frames for how the hearing will run.

We may make directions before a hearing about when evidence is required from the applicant and submitters wishing to speak at the hearing. The dates will be listed in the hearing procedures.

We may also require the applicant and some or all submitters to attend pre-hearing meetings or conferencing. The purpose of these meetings or conferencing is to refine the issues of contention on the application.

Hearing

Hearings can be held for both notified and non notified applications and will usually be public. For hearings for publicly notified applications, the applicant and their representatives, submitters who wished to be heard, witnesses, EPA staff and the decision-making committee are the only people who can speak.

The rules and time frames on how the hearing process will run are set out in the hearing procedures for each application. We also have guidelines for media attending hearings.

For a publicly notified application, a hearing must be no longer than 40 working days after the first day of the hearing.

Factsheet: What happens at a hearing for a marine consent application (pdf 600KB)

Making a decision on an application

Applications for notified applications are decided by a decision-making committee appointed by the EPA Board.  A decision will generally be made no later than 20 working days after the hearing is closed. The decision will be in writing and it will include reasons for the decision.

Factsheet: Marine consent applications: the decision makers (pdf 238KB)

We may grant or refuse the marine consent and, if consent is granted, the EPA can place conditions on the marine consent, which will be monitored and enforced by the EPA.

If we consider it does not have adequate information to determine the application, it may refuse an application. If the information available is uncertain or inadequate, we must favour caution and environmental protection and the application may be refused.

If the application is likely to be refused, we must consider whether an adaptive management approach would allow the activity to be undertaken.

The EEZ Act sets out the matters we must take into account when considering a marine consent application. Also the matters to be considered in deciding the extent of adverse effects on existing interests.

We must not consider:

  • trade competition or the effects of trade competition
  • the effects on climate change of discharging greenhouses gases into the air
  • any effects on a person’s existing interest if the person has given written approval to the proposed activity.

A marine consent has a duration of 35 years unless a shorter duration is specified in the consent.

Factsheet: What is considered during a decision about a marine consent (pdf 106KB)

Notifying the decision

We are required to send a copy of the decision to the applicant, all submitters, Nga Kaihāutu Tikanga Taiao (the EPA Maori Advisory Committee) and any other people or organisations we consider appropriate.   

A public notice of the decision will also be published in one or more of the newspapers circulating in the papers in Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin, and in a daily paper in the region adjacent to the area related to the marine consent application. 

Appeals

The applicant or any submitter can appeal against the decision on a marine consent application on a question of law only. Appeals must be filed with the Registrar of the High Court and served on the EPA within 15 working days after the date on which you are notified of the decision.

If an appeal is lodged, your marine consent cannot start until the High Court determines the appeal, or any appeals are withdrawn.