Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Time to put the environment into the Crown Minerals Act

At the moment, a giant seismic survey ship is arriving off the coast of New Zealand. When it gets here, it will start blasting every ten seconds, right in the middle of a blue whale (and Hector's dolphin) habitat, in an effort to find oil.

This is clearly bad for the environment - not just for the whales, but also for the climate. The government apparently has no power to stop it. But they've signalled that they will change the law in order to prevent future blasting:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has signalled the law could be changed after her Government found its hands tied on turning around the world's largest seismic survey ship from New Zealand waters.


Ardern, who during the election campaign said climate change was her generation's nuclear free moment, said it had become clear that the Government is legally bound by "some quite strict criteria".

"The question for us now is, is that criteria fit for purpose.

"We are bound by the Crown Minerals Act. That sets out some quite strict criteria on which we can make a decision. Much stricter than I would have thought would be reasonable.

"I think it is only fair that we now look at whether that legislation is fit for purpose."

Good. Because the Crown Minerals Act process for granting permits does not include any assessment of the environmental impacts of surveying. The closest it gets is requiring the Minister to assess whether the applicant will follow "good industry practice in respect of the proposed activities". But where there are potentially severe environmental impacts, as there are with offshore seismic surveying, then they need to be considered.

That's not the only change they need to make. Repealing the Anadarko Amendment banning anti-mining protests should be a priority. The Minister of Energy needs to be removed as a decision-maker from access arrangements to government land, and economic benefit needs to be removed as a consideration. And Schedule 4 needs to be updated and expanded. And the sooner all this is done, the sooner we can stop worrying about mining companies destroying our environment and our planet.