We recently had the opportunity to contribute to the New Zealand chapter to the 4th edition of The Space Law Review. While it might be news to some that New Zealand even has a dedicated Space Agency there’s actually a fair bit going on in the sector. Read on for a short introduction and some key developments to space law and policy over the last year.
Background to New Zealand Space Law
New Zealand introduced dedicated space legislation in 2017 in the form of the Outer Space and High-altitude Activities Act 2017 (the Outer Space Act). The Outer Space Act is accompanied by two sets of regulations; (i) the Outer Space and High-altitude Activities (Licences and Permits) Regulations 2017; and (ii) the Outer Space and High-altitude Activities (Definition of High-altitude Vehicle) Regulations 2017.
The Outer Space Act and regulations govern the registration, licensing and operation of launch vehicles, payloads and high-altitude vehicles. Depending on the proposed activities, the Radio communications Act 1989 may also be relevant to space activities in New Zealand and a person may need to obtain a satellite filing and a radio or spectrum licence in addition to licences under the Outer Space Act.
New Zealand is a party to a number of UN space treaties, several of which are referenced in the Outer Space Act. It is also a member of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and the International Telecommunication Union.
Statutory Review of the Outer Space Act
In May 2022, the Ministry of Business, Innovation,and Employment (MBIE) released a review on the operation and effectiveness of the Outer Space Act. The review was required by law and considered how the Outer Space Act has been operating for industry participants so far. Overall, the review determined the regulatory regime has been operating well, but identified some matters where legislative change may be desirable, for example:
- Amending the definition of ‘launch facility’ in the Outer Space Act to expressly remove ground stations so that they are not regulated in the same manner; and
- Introducing new regulation making powers to provide flexibility to respond to new and emerging technologies.
Space Policy Consultation
On the back of the statutory review, MBIE conducted a public consultation on New Zealand’s broader space policy settings.Submissions closed on 31 October 2022 and aimed to inform the creation of a National Space Policy. Submitters were asked to respond to various issues encompassing key policy objectives including:
- Growing an innovative and inclusive space sector.
- Modelling sustainable space and Earth environments.
- Promoting the responsible uses of space internationally.
- Protecting and advancing New Zealand’s national and economic interests.
- Regulating to ensure space activities are safe and secure.
Safe to say, both the statutory review and the public policy consultation will be keeping lawmakers busy for the foreseeable future. It looks like we may soon see upcoming legislative amendments to consolidate the success of the regulatory regime. Keep an eye out here for any updates.