Steps to gaining approval to drill offshore
1. Consent from NZP&M
One of the first steps is gaining a permit from New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals (NZP&M), a branch of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). NZP&M assess the financial and technical capability of an operator and works with third party experts to assess the operator's high-level health, safety and environmental ability.
NZP&M assess the financial and technical capability of an operator and works with third party experts to assess the operator's high-level health, safety and environmental ability.
2. Consents from the EPA/Regional council
A marine consent must be gained from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) if the proposed activity is in the Exclusive Economic Zone, or a resource consent from a Regional Council if the proposed activity is in territorial waters (up to 12 nm
If granted, these consents set out what conditions are imposed to address the adverse effects of the proposed activity on the environment or existing interests.
3. Submit a safety case to the High Hazards Unit
Drilling activity can only be carried out by operators that have a safety case approved by WorkSafe New Zealand.
WorkSafe New Zealand provides oversight of duty holders' management of well operations throughout the life cycle, from design to construction to completion. This ensures that duty holders meet their legal obligations to keep the risk of well failure as low as reasonably practicable.
4. Submit a discharge management plan to MNZ
Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) also needs to approve an operator's Discharge Management Plan. MNZ need to be satisfied that an operator has in place procedures that reduce the environmental impacts from discharges of substances and is prepared for a worst-case scenario in the event of a blowout.
Ongoing monitoring during drilling
High Hazards Unit
HUU inspectors maintain regulatory oversight throughout the life cycle of a well to ensure the operator is complying with its safety case.
A marine consent issued by the EPA or a resource consent issued by a Regional Council will set out what conditions are imposed to address the adverse effects of the proposed activity on the environment or existing interests.
The EPA/Regional Council will monitor compliance with the conditions and take enforcement action if required.
In the event of a spill
Discharge management plan
The operator is responsible for bringing a well under control in the unlikely event of a blowout.
Contingency planning is set out in the Well Control Contingency Plan (WCCP), part of the Discharge Management Plan which is approved
by Maritime New Zealand. The WCCP will set out what plan an operator has in a "worst-case" scenario.
If a significant oil spill occurs, MNZ's Marine Pollution Response Service (MPRS) is the lead national oil spill response agency.
MPRS is responsible for maintaining a nationwide capability to respond to marine oil spills through comprehensive national and international cooperation agreements.
Seismic surveying code of conduct
Under the EEZ permitted activity regulations, anyone undertaking a seismic survey must comply with the Department of Conservation's Code of Conduct for Minimising Acoustic Disturbance to Marine Mammals from Seismic Survey Operations. If they don't comply with the Code, they must go through a marine consent process.
The Code is voluntary within the offshore 12-mile limit but has been endorsed as industry best practice by the Petroleum Exploration and Production Association of New Zealand (PEPANZ) and is readily adopted by most operators.