Non-notified discretionary consent for exploratory drilling

Exploratory drilling for oil and gas will be classified as non-notified discretionary  under new EEZ Act regulations, Environment Minister Amy Adams has announced.

“The non-notified discretionary classification is the pragmatic option for exploratory drilling, and will provide a level of regulation proportionate to its effects,” Ms Adams says.

“This is part of the National-led Government’s overhaul of the laws and regulations governing the oil and gas industry.

“The classification will provide effective oversight and environmental safeguards without burdening industry with excessive costs and timeframes.”

Exploratory drilling is the drilling of an offshore well to identify oil or gas deposits under the seafloor, and to evaluate whether they would be suitable for production.

As part of the marine consent application, operators will need to submit an impact assessment that identifies impacts on the environment and existing interests. The impact assessment must describe any consultation undertaken with people identified as existing interests.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) will fully assess the effects of the activity on the environment and existing interests. If a marine consent is granted, the EPA can impose such conditions as it thinks necessary to properly manage any adverse effects of the activity.

Obtaining a marine consent to drill an exploratory well does not give the consent holder the right to begin producing oil or gas.

The operator would need to apply for a separate, discretionary marine consent before any production activities could take place. During this stage, the public would have the opportunity to make submissions on the proposed activities.

The decision for activities involved in exploratory drilling for oil and gas to be classified as non-notified discretionary follows a seven week consultation period on the draft regulations from 12 December 2013 to 31 January 2014.

Public consultation on the regulation of activities involved in exploratory drilling also occurred during August and September last year.

The new regulations come into effect on 28 February 2014.

The EEZ Act came into force on 28 June 2013, bringing a comprehensive approach to managing activities in the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

Under the EEZ Act, activities can be classified as permitted, discretionary, non-notified discretionary or prohibited.

Exploratory drilling is normally a low-risk activity.

The Minister’s decision means applications will be considered on their merits by the environmental Protection Authority.

That is far better than the prolonged and expensive delays which would result if notified consents were required.

The time and money involved in going through the protracted consent process could well be enough to put companies off exploration altogether.

That would no doubt please those of a dark green persuasion but Taranaki’s illustrates what the country could be losing if that happened.

Off-sea drilling there is boosting the economy with no damage to the environment.

18 Responses to Non-notified discretionary consent for exploratory drilling

  1. robertguyton says:

    Ordinary New Zealanders should have no role in deciding whether to have foreign oil companies drill for oil in our waters – National.


  2. JC says:



    There’s no place for racism in NZ.


  3. Gravedodger says:

    Just as Neurologists registration is likewise handled by those who understand the issues involved sans any hyperbole, misunderstanding or ignorance.
    Of course the views of the formidable intellect of a person of note such as your self should always be considered, eh Robert.
    Along with the views of brainwashed protest for hire people, those living in Uzbekistan, all residents of Old folks home, especially those who have no clue what day it is.

    Two further words on your opinion Robert, UTTER BOLLOCKS!!!

    BTW define “ordinary New Zealanders” perhaps with names and qualifications. GP people automatically excluded on the grounds of moronic tendency and conflict of interest.
    And Pulease not David Cull or Pete Hodgson, excluded on the grounds of possible irregularity around pocket money.


  4. TraceyS says:

    Dunedin’s Second Generation District Plan proposes the same for small-scale wind farms. A small-scale wind farm is defined by an application for a limited number of windmills of up to 85m or 125m in height. The Plan proposes to stipulate that these activities “should not be publicly notified”. A small number can obviously be made a large number by multiple restricted discretionary non-notified (or limited-notified) projects side-by-side, resulting in cumulative effects. The public will have no say on this. Neighbours “may” be consulted as part of limited-notification but this will be at the Council’s discretion.


  5. Dave Kennedy says:

    “Exploratory drilling is normally a low-risk activity.”

    A lot depends on the environment and the depth being drilled. I would say that at over 1500 metres we are looking at considerable more risk than the 100 metres near Taranaki and the Great South Basin is hardly a friendly environment (as the battered Hunt Petroleum discovered last time). If you drove your car when you had a 1:35 chance of something going wrong you would probably think twice but apparently these are good odds for deep sea drilling.

    Anadarko and Shell have both produced potential scenarios in their response plans that were worse than Greenpeace predicted and the only agency that provides our environmental overview doesn’t even read the complete documents, just the summaries.

    Maritime New Zealand has full responsibility for any spill or accident and its first line response is Corexit, which is now banned in 18 countries:

    We are heavily subsidising these companies with free seismic surveys, low tax and royalties and yet will still pay commercial rates for any oil and gas produced, I think the oil companies think they are in paradise. None of the risks, most of the profits.

    Remember when the Government wanted Solid Energy and coal mining to replicate the riches that Australia had destroyed their environment for? It cost us $400 million and Southland has a $30 million dollar mothballed briquetting plant as a monument to that plan.


  6. TraceyS says:

    Actually, Dave, the risk of dying from accidental injury is about the same as something going wrong with an oil well (1:36 chance).

    Should we all wrap up in cotton wool and stay in bed? If we ALL did that I would imagine the risk of dying from starvation might exceed the risk of death by accidental injury.


  7. Dave Kennedy says:

    Your use of statistics displays your level of understanding, Tracey. First one should look at the possibility of dying at all. For a 40 year old woman the risk is 0.15%

    Sensible people, once they knew the risk, would put in place things to reduce the risk. In the case of the oil industry a handy capping stack and a relief rig would be helpful. Shifting more of the financial responsibility on to the driller would also be a useful move. The more the potential costs of an accident, the greater the care.

    We’ve lowered our road toll considerably because of safety belts, safer cars and stronger laws and enforcement around drinking and speed. With the oil industry the Government is virtually saying, have some enormous subsidies, go for your life and if you stuff up we’ll cover you…Gulf of Mexico here we come! You are obviously a fan of Russian Roulette.


  8. JC says:

    “With the oil industry the Government is virtually saying, have some enormous subsidies, go for your life and if you stuff up we’ll cover you”

    That of course was exactly the situation when Labour was in power and the Greens were enthusiastic partners.

    Labour allowed the drilling of 36 wells during that time without any public consultation at all . The Minister simply issued a permit without consultation and without any formal examination of the activity.. and the Greens went along quite happily with this.

    Hypocrisy.. thy names are Labour and Green.



  9. TraceyS says:

    Dave at 12:25 am said: “…one should look at the possibility of dying at all. For a 40 year old woman the risk is 0.15%”.


    “A 20-year-old U.S. woman has a 1 in 2,000 (or 0.05 percent) chance of dying in the next year, for example. By age 40, the risk is three times greater”.

    But here you are talking about ANNUAL probability, Dave. That is, the chance a 40 year old woman dying in the next year. The lifetime probability of dying is surely 100%!

    I understood, from what Gareth Hughes said, that there was a 1 in 35 occurrence of oil spill (or 1 in 19 for deepwater wells) over a period of 1964 to 2012. Forty years is roughly the lifetime of an oil rig. So that’s an ANNUAL occurrence of about 0.07% to 0.13%.

    Surely you are not suggesting that these data point to an ANNUAL probability of 1 in 35? You cannot ignore the time-frame over which the spills occurred. They were stretched out over time, not concentrated into one year.

    I would question your use of stats if that were the case. However, this would not be the first time.


  10. Dave Kennedy says:

    “Labour allowed the drilling of 36 wells during that time without any public consultation at all . The Minister simply issued a permit without consultation and without any formal examination of the activity”

    @ JC, I won’t argue with you regarding the lack of controls before, but since then we have have had the Rena disaster and the Gulf of Mexico. We are also choosing to drill at a depth much great than ever before. Surely we should always use current knowledge and understandings to make decisions.

    @Tracey, I guess we could argue statistics forever. No matter what we think the odds are, I still think they are concerning because of the extent of the damage that could occur and my comments around what we can do to minimize them are still valid.


  11. jabba says:

    “Rena disaster” .. sorry Dave, are you saying that we should ban shipping??
    The Gulf of Mexico disaster .. is that your go to example for everything .. good grief
    you are becoming a mini me Guyton .. please think before you post and I mean that when you oppose something, give us a viable alternative that will succeed NOW, not in 10 years.


  12. JC says:

    “but since then we have have had the Rena disaster and the Gulf of Mexico.”

    The Rena of course has nothing whatsoever to do with exploratory drilling and everything to do with proving how trifling and piffling such a spill is to the environment.

    The Gulf of Mexico also proved less than overwhelming and as has been carefully explained to the Greens, offshore NZ oil does not explode out of the seabed but must be pumped out.. a bit like a lefty avoiding work.. he must be pumped to get him off the taxpayers tit.



  13. Dave Kennedy says:

    Of course we shouldn’t ban shipping, Jabba (you seem to enjoy making huge leaps in your conclusions), but we should make sure the Maritime NZ is capable of dealing with a much larger situation. Also the Rena disaster cost the country $50 million to resolve.

    Rather than anchoring ourselves to the past we should be embracing the growing green economy as supported by the World Bank

    Pure Advantage is an alliance of New Zealand businesses and businessmen who have ideas that would succeed now.


  14. TraceyS says:

    Dave Kennedy 6:51 pm:

    We could argue on about the statistics but not “forever” as you say. You see, one of us is right, the other is not. But I understand why you don’t want to continue with the debate. I’d be more than happy to go on a little longer if you change your mind.

    When Gareth Hughes said: “…we see that for shallow water oil drilling 1 in 272 wells has a spill, while that number increases to 1 in 35 wells for deep sea drilling and to 1 in 19 wells for ultra-deep sea drilling” he should have made clear that this was over an oil well lifetime. Then you and others would not have been misled as you were to thinking the odds were higher.

    If the period of the risk is not specified then people tend to assume, as you did, that it the numbers relate to ANNUAL probability. They do not. Clearly.

    He also made another mistake in saying “[n]ew analysis revealed by the Green Party today shows that…in ultra-deep water, the risk is as high as 1 in 19 wells”. Past occurrences (as these were) cannot be converted directly to future probabilities or risk of an event. A lot has changed since 1964 when the first of the spills occurred.

    It’s like saying the occurrence of car accidents between 1964 and 2012 predicts the risk of car accidents between 2014 and 2062. I would suggest such comparisons are barely even relevant let alone evidential in a quantitative way.

    In Russel’s interview on Friday with Dunedin TV he said: “…people don’t have the right anymore to make submissions for or against oil drilling”. This is misleading too. People do have the right to make submissions following exploration to find out whether or not there is oil or gas present. To anyone with a half-rational head on their shoulders this is easily reasonable.


  15. Dave Kennedy says:

    Tracey, you do realize that exploratory drilling is the most risky phase? We will obviously never agree on the level of risk but you must admit that over 100 days to get a relief rig in place if there was an accident is unacceptable (Anadarko’s own estimate). Maritime NZ is not equipped to deal with even a minor spill, they struggled with the Rena and it was only a wrecked ship.


  16. TraceyS says:

    Dave, did you know that natural seeps accounted for 47% of oil spilled into the marine environment in a period studied from 1990 to 1999? In that period, extraction accounted for just 3% of oil entering the marine environment. The major sources were:

    Land-based runoff – 11%
    Operational (vessel) discharges – 21%
    Tanker spills – 8%

    When other decades are looked at it shows that exploration could not have been the riskiest of activities associated with the mining of oil in these periods:

    Platform/well/rig/mobile unit (% total spill, by volume):

    1970–1979; 16.1
    1980–1989; 22.3
    1990–1999; 10.0

    Pipeline, tanker, storage tank/refinery/other fixed facility (% total spill, by volume):

    1970–1979; 83.9
    1980–1989; 77.7
    1990–1999; 90.0

    Note: the periods 1970-79 and 1980-89 share the “blowout at the Ixtoc-1 well that released 480 000 t of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico over a 10-month period from June 1979 to February 1980”. (The Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 released about 620 000 t).

    Puts things into perspective I think. Where are your data that say exploration is the riskiest stage of oil mining activity?

    Peter Burgherr (2007). In-depth analysis of accidental oil spills from tankers in the context of global spill trends from all sources: Journal of Hazardous Materials. Volume 140, Issues 1–2, 9 February 2007, Pages 245–256.


  17. Mr E says:

    Well done Tracey.


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