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Mineral resources and energy are central to the level of technological sophistication that we have come to expect in our everyday lives. Yet the availability and use of these finite resources is unsustainable, almost by definition, and particularly so when considering fragile ecosystems.
This raises the ‘super-wicked’ policy issue, negotiated through resource management legislation, of trying to balance necessary resource use with not irreparably damaging the natural environment (Levin et al., 2012).
This article primarily concerns the effects of the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill (2015) on management of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf area. Omnibus bills that contain nontechnical and contentious amendments continue to challenge civil society’s ability to fully consider the implications of reform. Despite that limitation, the government strengthens requirements for marine dumping and disposal consents contrary to fears expressed in some select committee submissions. It also argues that management powers will be further concentrated in the responsible minister by implementing a board of inquiry process for marine consents, building on already extensive regulatory powers in the EEZ and continental shelf area. Although its effects are mixed, the bill may be a retrograde step for genuinely consistent, sustainable management of the marine environment, as too much will depend on the government of the day.