The Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith should not be given the power to appoint Environment Protection Agency (EPA) decision-makers who decide applications for seabed mining and other development in New Zealand’s oceans, the Green Party said today.
Yesterday, Greenpeace revealed that Dr Smith is seeking to change the law to give himself the power to personally choose who will sit on the Environmental Protection Agency’s “decision-making committees” for marine consent applications, responsible for deciding if companies can prospect for oil and mine in New Zealand’s oceans. This move would see an end to experts being independently appointment by the EPA.
“This would be a major law change as the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012 highlights that the Minister has no role in the EPA’s decisions on marine consent applications, Green Party environment spokesperson Eugenie Sage said.
“Kiwis want to trust that any development activities in our oceans are rigorously and independently tested, and reviewed by objective experts. They want applications decided by an independent EPA, not by cheerleaders for oil and seabed mining, working under the Minister’s thumb, she said.
“The Minister is continuing a worrying trend of this National Government by removing independent and democratic oversight of environmental management and decision-making. Whenever agencies make decisions that don’t fit National’s short term agenda of sacrificing the environment for economic development, the Minister increases his power at the agency’s expense.
“The Minister and National have already axed elected councillors in Canterbury and replaced them with hand-picked commissioners to influence water management in the region. They’ve side-lined the Environment Court in Auckland and Canterbury by disallowing appeals to it on urban and district planning. Now the Minister wants to have the EPA under his thumb by hand-picking decision makers for activities in the Exclusive Economic Zone.
“Recent decisions by the EPA to refuse applications for seabed mining within New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone were sensible decisions based on a rigorous assessment of evidence. The problem does not lie with the EPA panels but with proposals, that were short on important information, and expected to cause significant and permanent damage to the seabed, marine life and ecosystems,” said Ms Sage.