About the Environmental Legal Assistance Fund

This page provides information about the purpose of the Environmental Legal Assistance Fund, who is eligible to apply for funding, how much funding is available, what the fund covers, and how applications are assessed.

Purpose of the Environmental Legal Assistance Fund

The Environmental Legal Assistance Fund helps not-for-profit groups such as iwi / hapū, incorporated societies, and community groups to participate more effectively in resource management processes.

The fund provides financial assistance for those groups to advocate for environmental issues of high public interest in resource management proceedings heard at the Environment Court and at boards of inquiry (constituted under the ‘call in’ provisions of the Resource Management Act). Since May 2013, the fund has also been available to fund appeals to the Environment Court and board of inquiry proceedings.

The fund reimburses the costs of legal representatives and expert witnesses to help prepare, mediate, and present the group’s case in the Environment Court or at a board of inquiry hearing.

Who is eligible for funding?

Not-for-profit groups are eligible to apply for funding. These groups may include iwi and hapū groups, incorporated societies, and community groups. In general it is expected that groups are incorporated or a trust. The fund is not available to individuals.

Before applying for funding the group must already be engaged in the proceedings by being a party to the case before the Environment Court, or having lodged a submission with the Environmental Protection Authority. The table below outlines the level of engagement required to be eligible for funding.


Level of engagement required

Proceedings at the Environment Court

Be a party to the case before the court

When the Minister for the Environment has directed a matter to a board of inquiry
or the Environment Court if it is a proposal of national significance

Have lodged a submission with the Environmental Protection Authority

When a local authority has directly referred an application to the Environment Court

Groups must be a section 274 party, or a party to the Court proceedings

How much funding is available?

There is no minimum grant and the maximum grant is $50,000 (excluding gst) per group, per application, for any one case. The ELA Fund has a total annual budget of $600,000 (excluding GST).

The Ministry enters into a deed of funding with the group to pay the costs (up to specified amounts) for the specified legal counsel and expert witnesses. Money is not provided directly to the applicant group.

What the fund covers

Funding is available to cover the time and expenses of legal representatives and/or expert witnesses used in preparing for, resolving and/or presenting cases before the court. As part of your application you must include a short resume about your legal representatives and expert witnesses which outlines their relevant qualifications and experience, including the resource management experience of your legal counsel.

There is no guarantee that any or all requested funding will be awarded. The applicant must be eligible for funding, and only reasonable costs will be considered for funding. Please note that if insufficient information is provided a request will be made for additional information. Your application will not be assessed until all the required information has been provided.

What the fund does not cover

Funding is not available for:

  • assistance at council hearings
  • assistance in higher court appeals
  • costs incurred before the application being lodged
  • costs of members of applicant groups in any event
  • sundry costs of non‐incorporated groups
  • costs of establishing the group as a legal entity
  • ongoing costs of the group, such as capital costs and rent
  • costs awarded by the court against a group or individuals of the group
  • costs of preparing submissions to the Minister for board of inquiry hearings under the call‐in process. This is a prior stage to the board of inquiry hearing.

Assessing applications

Applications are assessed against set criteria every 5–6 weeks by an independent advisory panel. The panel makes recommendations to Minister for the Environment. The Minister for the Environment makes the final decision on whether to fund an application.

Independent expert advisory panel

The independent advisory panel comprises seven members appointed for their knowledge of environmental law, resource management issues, and of community groups and iwi. The members are appointed by the Ministry for the Environment.

The current panel includes the following members:

Dr Royden Somerville QC (Chair)


Rachel Reese, Mayor of Nelson

Local Government

Phil Page


Sylvia Allan


Alan Dormer


Glenice Paine

Māori /Cultural

Frank Boffa

Landscape Architecture