The public will lose their right to formally oppose deep-sea oil and gas exploration from tomorrow.
A law change will see applications by oil giants go through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They will now be "non-notified" preventing members of the public lodging a formal protest.
Environment Minister Amy Adams said the new classification was the "pragmatic option" for exploratory drilling. She believed it provided regulation "proportionate to its effects".
An overhaul of the laws and regulations governing the oil and gas industry "will provide effective oversight and environmental safeguards without burdening industry with excessive costs and timeframes".
Operators must now submit to the EPA an assessment that identifies "impacts" on the environment. The firms must also demonstrate they consulted with interested parties.
The change was introduced by way of a Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) which meant it didn't go through a parliamentary select committee.
The move followed the controversial "Anadarko Amendment" which saw a ban on protesting at sea. Labour Minister Simon Bridges was criticised for introducing it as an SOP, also avoiding select committee scrutiny, and kowtowing to oil companies.
If an oil company strikes oil they must apply for a new marine consent for production. At this stage, the public are allowed to make submissions on the proposed activities.
Texan oil giant Anadarko are currently test-drilling off the coast of Oamaru, after a recent expedition off Raglan failed to yield any results.
The Green Party said the new regulations "muzzle" the public.
"The Government legislated to stop people voicing their opposition at sea, and now they are locking them out on land," energy spokesman Gareth Hughes said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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