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Government has high hopes for protection zone

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Nick Smith
Nick Smith

Wellington, June 3 NZPA - The Government has announced a new Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and hopes it will strengthen protection the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Environment Minister Nick Smith says.

The zone, which takes in 4 million square km surrounding New Zealand, falls outside the jurisdiction of the Resource Management Act.

"The intention, as part of the legislation to implement the EPA, is to provide for additional functions to ensure this huge area of ocean has world best environmental protection," Dr Smith said in Auckland today.

"The environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico reinforces the importance of this work. The Government is determined to ensure that New Zealand's marine environment is properly protected as we expand petroleum exploration and development in the EEZ."

The EPA will combine the functions of the Environmental Risk Management Authority (Erma) with other national-level regulatory and consenting functions. It will receive and process national consent applications.

It will be established as a Crown agent, with its board accountable to the minister and responsible for the regulatory functions of:

* national consenting under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA);

* Ozone Protection Act (1996);

* Climate Change Response Act (2008) - legislation that covers the administration of the Emissions Trading Scheme;

* Stockholm, Rotterdam, Basel, and Waigani Conventions and the Cartagena Protocol on hazardous waste;

* Antarctica (Environmental Protection) Act 1994;

* Exclusive Economic Zone (proposed).

"New Zealand needs a strong, independent regulatory authority to ensure the protection of our environment at a national level," Dr Smith said.

"This reform is about bringing under one roof a wide range of environmental regulatory functions and providing stronger national direction to the environment roles of regional and district councils.

"These changes provide a strengthened framework of an Environment Ministry focused on policy, and an Environmental Protection Authority responsible for efficient regulation and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment as an independent auditor."

Dr Smith said creating an EPA was a 2008 election promise by National.

Legislation will be introduced to Parliament later this year to implement Cabinet's decision this week on the EPA with an intended operational date of July 1 next year, he said.

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