Tuesday, August 07, 2012

An improvement

Earlier in the year, a select committee reported back on the government's Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill. The bill would create an environmental management framework for New Zealand's EEZ, replacing the ad-hoc system we currently have under the Continental Shelf Act 1964, allowing things like undersea mining and offshore oil drilling to be regulated.

Except of course that this is a National government, to whom "environmental protection" is a dirty word. So, in keeping with their Orcish impulses, their legislation did not protect the environment, instead offering their phantom of "balance" between environment and economic development - the same language they used to justify their efforts to dig up our National Parks. The public cried foul - and now it seems that the government has finally listened, with major amendments to the purpose clause and a significantly strengthened penalty regime.

This is a major backdown, and it goes some way to addressing concerns about the bill. At the same time, its not enough. As the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment's submission on the bill makes clear, the government is trying to undermine the internationally accepted precautionary principle, as well as environmental protection in general. And this is not something we should let them get away with. This is major legislation, which is going to set the environmental tone for decades to come, and its important we get it right. Otherwise, we're simply setting ourselves up for disasters like Deepwater Horizon, which our environment cannot afford.