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Responsibilities of the Minister for the Environment

This page explains the responsibilities of the Minister for the Environment under the following Acts:

  • Resource Management Act 1991
  • Waste Minimisation Act 2008
  • Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996
  • Soil Conservation and Rivers Control Act 1941
  • Fiordland (Te Moana o Atawhenua) Marine Management Act 2005
  • Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012
  • Environmental Reporting Act 2015.

Resource Management Act 1991

The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) is the primary legislation in New Zealand for managing our environment. The Minister for the Environment maintains an active overview and monitoring role of the implementation of the RMA.

Under the RMA, the Minister's responsibilites include:

  • recommending the making of national policy statements and national environmental standards
  • deciding whether to issue national planning standards
  • deciding whether a matter is of national significance, and deciding whether to use any of the ministerial powers of intervention, which include the power to call in proposals of national significance and referring such proposals to a Board of Inquiry or the Environment Court for decision
  • deciding whether applications for requiring authority and heritage protection authority status should be approved
  • deciding whether applications from councils to use streamlined planning processes should be approved
  • deciding whether an application to make or amend a water conservation order be referred to a special tribunal, and deciding whether or not to recommend that a water conservation order be issued
  • monitoring the effect and implementation of the RMA, including any regulations in force under it, national policy statements and water conservation orders
  • monitoring the relationship between the functions, powers and duties of central government and local government
  • monitoring and investigating matters of environmental significance
  • considering and investigating the use of economic instruments.

Additional powers

The Minister for the Environment has additional powers to:

  • investigate and make recommendations on the exercise or performance of local authorities’ functions, power or duties
  • direct a regional council to prepare or change a regional plan to address a resource management issue in a region or direct a territorial authority to change its district plan to address a resource management issue
  • request a local authority, a heritage protection authority or a requiring authority to supply information at no cost to the Minister, if they hold that information and it is related to their functions, powers or duties under the RMA.

Limited powers

Under the RMA the Minister has limited powers to:

  • appoint people to carry out the functions of a local authority if the Minister considers that it is not performing to the extent necessary to achieve the purpose of the RMA
  • make grants and loans to help achieve the purpose of the RMA.

Waste Minimisation Act 2008

The Waste Minimisation Act encourages a reduction in the amount of waste we generate and dispose of in New Zealand. The aim is to reduce the environmental harm of waste and provide economic, social and cultural benefits for New Zealand.

Under the Waste Minimisation Act, the Minister's powers, functions and responsibilities include:

  • reviewing the effectiveness of the Waste Disposal Levy every three years
  • determining, in consultation with the Waste Advisory Board, priority products that will be subject to mandatory product stewardship schemes
  • developing guidelines about the contents and expected effects of product stewardship schemes for priority products
  • granting government accreditation to voluntary and mandatory product stewardship schemes
  • approving funding of projects that promote or achieve waste minimisation
  • appointing a person to collect the waste levy from landfill operators
  • setting performance standards for implementing waste management and minimisation plans prepared by territorial authorities and recommend, through an order in council process, that territorial authorities amend their waste management and minimisation plans
  • setting the terms of reference for the Waste Advisory Board, request nominations for members and, in consultation with the Minister of Māori Affairs, appoint between four and eight members to the Board
  • seeking the advice of the Waste Advisory Board on various matters including developing guidelines about product stewardship schemes
  • recommending to the Governor-General the making of various regulations about priority products, accredited product stewardship schemes, the operation of the waste levy and waste minimisation schemes, for example container deposit schemes and take-back services for products
  • recommending to the Governor-General the making of regulations on the collection of records, information and reports about waste management and minimisation, to enable, for example, statistics to be compiled, the waste levy to be accurately calculated, and to monitor territorial authority spending of levy money.

Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996

The purpose of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 (HSNO Act) is to protect the environment, and the health and safety of people and communities, by preventing or managing the adverse effects of hazardous substances and new organisms.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), is a specialist decision-making body under the HSNO Act.

Under this Act, the Minister has responsibility to:

  • recommend the establishment of a methodology (which includes an assessment of monetary and non-monetary costs and benefits) for making decisions under Part 5 which the EPA shall  apply when making such decisions
  • decide whether an application fits the limited circumstances for specified significant effects that would justify calling in the application to be decided by the Minister rather than the EPA
  • recommend to the Governor- General the making of regulations under section 140 or 140B.

Soil Conservation and Rivers Control Act 1941

Under the Soil Conservation and Rivers Control Act, the Minister has powers, but no obligations to make grants and loans for fencing, planting and other work to prevent soil erosion.

Fiordland (Te Moana o Atawhenua) Marine Management Act 2005

The Fiordland (Te Moana o Atawhenua) Marine Management Act 2005 recognises the local, national and international importance of the Fiordland marine environment, including the distinct biological diversity, outstanding landscape and cultural heritage.

Under the Fiordland Marine Management Act, the Minister’s responsibilities include:

  • appointing the Fiordland Marine Guardians
  • providing direction to the Fiordland Marine Guardians on management of the area
  • initiating reviews to determine the effectiveness of the management of the area.

Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012

The Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012 (the Act) assists with the sustainable management of natural resources in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf. It does this by allowing for the regulation of certain activities that were previously unregulated in the EEZ and continental shelf.

Under the Act, the Minister’s responsibilities include:

  • recommending to the Governor-General the making of regulations that prescribe requirements, methods, or technical standards for:
    • activities described in section 20 that are carried out in the EEZ or in or on the continental shelf
    •  the effects of the activities referred to in paragraph (a), including effects that occur in the territorial sea or in the sea above and beyond the continental shelf
    • assessing the state of the environment of the EEZ and the continental shelf
  • recommending to the Governor- General the making of regulations that prescribe requirements, methods, or technical standards for the discharge of harmful substances, the dumping of waste or other matter, and the effects of the discharge or dumping
  • appointing boards of inquiry for applications for publicly notifiable section 20 activities
  • preparing an EEZ policy statement.

Environmental Reporting Act 2015

The purpose of the Environmental Reporting Act 2015 is to require regular reports on New Zealand’s environment. The Act makes responsibilities for independent, fair and accurate environmental reporting explicit, and sets the broad framework for the scope of reporting and timing for reporting products.

Under the Act, the Minister’s responsibilities include:

  • presenting published synthesis and domain reports to the House of Representatives with the Minister of Statistics
  • jointly recommending to the Governor-General regulations prescribing topics to be covered in synthesis and domain reports.
Reviewed:
23/06/17