Bill to prohibit new petroleum activities beyond onshore Taranaki

The Government has introduced a bill amending the Crown Minerals Act 1991.

The Crown Minerals (Petroleum) Amendment Bill gives effect to the Minister for Energy and Resources' (Megan Woods) announcement in April this year that the area available for new oil and gas exploration (through Block Offer 2018) would be limited to onshore blocks in the Taranaki Basin and no offshore blocks would be offered in the future.

The Bill is short and targeted. In line with the Minister's announcement it proposes to:

  • Prohibit the ability to apply for a petroleum exploration permit (unless a tender / block offer for this type of permit within the onshore Taranaki region is allowed).
  • Prohibit the ability to apply for a petroleum prospecting or mining permit except within the onshore Taranaki region.
  • Restrict the ability for the Minister to make (and accept) block offers for petroleum permits to land that is in the onshore Taranaki region only.
  • Limit the ability for new onshore petroleum exploration permit holders to access conservation land within the onshore Taranaki region to only minimum impact activities and / or to carry out activities below that land.
  • Protect existing petroleum permits and existing privileges that exist immediately before the Bill comes into force.
  • Automatically withdraw all applications for permits lodged or submitted with NZPAM before the Bill comes into force. Those applications relating to land in the onshore Taranaki region will be deemed to be re-lodged or re-submitted immediately after the commencement of the Bill.

The majority of these changes are accompanied by a clear statement that they apply despite anything to the contrary in the Act, including the purpose of the Act to “promote prospecting for, exploration for, and mining of Crown owned minerals for the benefit of New Zealand”.

The Government needs to make the proposed changes to the Act before it can release Block Offer 2018.  Accordingly, the Bill will be fast-tracked and subject to a four week select committee process.  The Block Offer is proposed to be made in early 2019.

The Minister has also indicated that a second and more detailed review of the Act will follow.  An issues paper and consultation with stakeholders about this second wave of changes is expected by the end of the year.

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