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Decommissioning and other matters

This article provides an update on the effects of Crown Minerals (Decommissioning and Other Matters) Amendment Act and updates on the Conservation law and Resource Management law reforms. By Helen Atkins and Louise Ford, Atkins Holm Majurey.

The Crown Minerals (Decommissioning and Other Matters) Amendment Act (Amendment Act) received Royal assent on December 1, 2021, and several of the new provisions are now in force. The Act now imposes a requirement for all petroleum and mining permit holders and mining licence holders to carry out decommissioning activities, which includes meeting the full financial costs of the decommissioning activities. 

This requirement applies to both current and future permit and licence holders with new pecuniary and criminal sanctions for not decommissioning. The pecuniary penalty for an individual is up to $500,000 and for a body corporate, the greater of either $10 million, three times the commercial gain or 10 percent of the turnover of the body corporate and all its interconnected bodies corporate.

The Amendment Act also introduces changes that apply across the Crown Minerals Act that give the regulator new enforcement tools to improve compliance and enforcement, including compliance notices, enforceable undertakings and infringement notices.

In relation to a mining permit, the Amendment Act has made changes to the tests used when someone applies for a new permit, when someone transfers their interest in a permit or when a change of control for a Tier one permit operator is consented. 

The decision-maker must now be satisfied that a proposed permit holder will be highly likely to comply with work programmes, permit conditions, health and safety requirements, environmental requirements and obligations relating to fees and royalties.

Conservation reform update

In December 2021, the Minister of Conservation, the Hon Kiri Allen, announced work to address the long-standing problems in conservation law, and set out a roadmap for reform of the conservation legislation in New Zealand. The roadmap starts with a review of the Wildlife Act 1953.

Two key issues the review of the Wildlife Act hopes to address include the fact that many threatened animal species are currently omitted from its protection, and the protection the Act provides is not consistent or proportionate to the Threat. Section 53 of the Wildlife Act also does not allow interactions between wildlife and people to be managed in a way that protects wildlife.

Work is also continuing on the long-signalled National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity (NPSIB). Decisions on the release of an exposure draft of the NPSIB will now be made in the first half of 2022.

Resource Management Law reform

The Environment Committee released its report on the inquiry on the Natural and Built Environments Bill in November last year, and the Government Response paper was released on 16 February 2022. 

The Government has said it will consider the recommendations and key points made by the Environment Committee in its report. The full Natural and Built Environment Bill (Bill) is expected to be introduced in the third quarter of this year.

The Ministry for the Environment (MfE) released a discussion paper Our future resource management system: Materials for discussion in November 2021 (MfE paper). The purpose of the MfE paper is to support the targeted engagement with hapu/iwi/Maori, local government and other stake holders, and mainly deals with details of the reform since the exposure draft was prepared. 

The MfE report aimed to provide a general overview of RM reform to support submissions on the Bill to a select committee in 2022.

The feedback period on the MfE report closed at the end of February. The feedback will be collated and analysed and used to inform the development of the legislation.

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