Safety law revamp worries fuel body

18:55, Jan 31 2013

The petroleum industry says it is concerned moves to bolster health and safety powers in the mineral extraction sector are too broad and could unfairly affect its members.

Addressing a select committee hearing on the Crown Minerals (Permitting and Crown Land) Bill, the Petroleum Exploration and Production Association said the industry supported the bill on the whole, and the certainty it would lend to investors.

However, the body warned that adding discrete health and safety clauses on top of the obligations already covered by the Health & Safety in Employment Act could see operators over-governed by two sets of rules.

"Compliance with the health and safety laws looks modest on paper but has major implications in practice," said PEPANZ policy analyst Andrew Saunders.

The review of the Crown Minerals bill looks to change the framework around how exploration and production rights are allocated in the minerals sector.

It includes tighter safety practices aimed at preventing a repeat of the Pike River Coal disaster, which claimed the lives of 29 miners in 2010.


A further issue the industry body has with the proposed rules is the ability of the regulator to strip exploration firms of their permit for violations.

Saunders likened it to a business losing a factory for a single health and safety violation, instead of facing a hearing and possibly a fine.

PEPANZ also took issue with the use of the coal industry as a template for all mineral operators, saying what worked for coal mining did not necessarily translate to gold and petroleum extractors.

Asked by Labour MP David Cunliffe if the sector was entirely compliant with current regulations, Saunders said huge improvements had been made in recent years to boost safety, and the industry supported a single set of rules that met international best practice.

Saunders urged the committee to recognise these differences and set rules accordingly, or omit the clauses altogether in favour of tighter rules under the Health & Safety Act. The bill has passed its first reading in Parliament. Fairfax NZ

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