Practical proposals for improving the Department of Labour’s approach to high hazard industries
Recommendation six: Support environmental outcomes and regulation
The Government has announced it intends to extend environmental regulation and protection out as far as the extended continental shelf. The main agency that will responsible for enforcing this new legislation will be the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).
Cabinet is also expecting the Ministers for the Environment and Energy and Resources, in consultation with other relevant Ministers, to report back by the end of July 2011 with "a proposal to address the potential environmental impacts of activities, including oil and gas activities, in the EEZ and the extended continental shelf that occur before the legislation and a complete set of regulations come into force."
The Department is not an environmental regulator. The focus of the HSE Act is on preventing harm to people at work. HSNO does focus on impacts on people and the environment, but in terms of petroleum installations and mines, the regulatory framework is provided ostensibly under the HSE Act.
However, in the context of both mines and petroleum operations, managing health and safety effectively tends to promote environmental outcomes as well.
Actively support interim measures to promote environmental outcomes while legislation is underway
The Department needs to support the current work being done to extend environmental protections out beyond the territorial limit. Agencies are currently working together to identify what can be achieved under the current regulatory framework to promote environmental outcomes while legislative measures are in train to formalise the role of the Environmental Protection Authority in New Zealand's deepwater frontier zones.
The Department needs to consider how it can contribute to the optimal environmental outcomes. While the Department has only limited responsibility for considering environmental issues (via the HSNO Act), it can work closely with environmental agencies to support environmental outcomes. There is a significant overlap between safety legislation such as the HSE Act and environmental outcomes. While the focus of the HSE legislation is on protecting people at work, many of the hazards on petroleum installations present both a risk to workers and the environment (leaks, explosions and spills for example).
As one of the main regulatory authorities working with the petroleum industry and the recipient of a lot of intelligence and knowledge on offshore drilling activities, the Department should ensure it supports environmental agencies by sharing this knowledge and information.
87. The Department needs to engage with the EPA, MfE and MED to actively support environmental outcomes through its work with petroleum operators. [NSM and Policy]
88. The Department needs to be mindful of environmental risks and concerns when reviewing information received from operators and keep the environmental agencies informed on these emerging risks/concerns. [SAsHH-P, MTSS and Policy]
89. The Department needs to ensure any relevant information or data (such as daily drilling reports) are provided to environmental agencies (or agencies are provided access). [Policy, MTSS]
90. The Department should support the establishment of a working group with environmental agencies and other regulators to work through all of the data and information available and to agree sharing arrangements. [Policy]