Roles and responsibilities for managing environmental risks

This page outlines the roles and responsibilities of government agencies for managing environmental risks in New Zealand.

Ministry for the Environment

The Ministry for the Environment is the Government’s principal advisor on the environment. A key aspect of this role is effective monitoring of chemical and biological risks to the health and safety of New Zealand’s people and environment. Our aim is to ensure the legislative framework is effective against risks but without unnecessarily constraining economic growth. We do this by managing known risks and continually monitor for emerging risks.

The Ministry for the Environment also has a role in proposing amendments to legislation such as the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 (HSNO Act) and making new regulations. These include national environmental standards and regulations about activities in New Zealand’s oceans.

Environmental Protection Authority

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is responsible for regulating the introduction and use of hazardous substances and new organisms in New Zealand. An approval must be obtained from the EPA before a hazardous substance or new organism can be imported into, or manufactured in, the country.

The EPA evaluates all applications for approvals. When evaluating applications, it must consider matters such as the health, economic, social and cultural well-being of all people and communities in New Zealand. This includes the Crown’s special relationship with Māori and their culture and traditions in the decision-making process. Depending on the nature of the application, there may be public submissions and hearings.

The EPA also has responsibilities in regulating the import and export of hazardous waste and ozone depleting substances.

See the following EPA webpages for more information.

Importing or exporting ozone depleting substances in New Zealand

Importing hazardous waste in New Zealand

Exporting hazardous waste in New Zealand

WorkSafe New Zealand

WorkSafe New Zealand is responsible for the enforcement of hazardous substance rules in work places. It currently undertakes this role on behalf of the EPA under the HSNO Act.

Changes to the HSNO Act as part of the Health and Safety at Work reforms mean that from July 2017 regulation of hazardous substances in the work place will move from the HSNO Act to the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

For more information see Hazardous Substances [WorkSafe New Zealand website].

Other central government agencies

Other central government agencies with enforcement roles under the HSNO Act include the:

Local government

Local government must give effect to legislation and regulations produced by the Ministry for the Environment.

One of the main responsibilities of local government is implementing regulations under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA).

Under the RMA, regional councils must prepare regional policy statements and plans to manage the natural and physical resources of their regions. This includes controlling the discharge of contaminants to the environment. City and district councils must include controls for the effects of the use and development of land in their district plans.

For local government’s responsibilities for hazardous substances see Managing Hazardous Substances - interface between the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act and the RMA [Quality Planning website] 

See also Genetically modified organisms and the RMA for information on local governments' role in managing genetically modified organisms.