This document presents an analysis of New Zealand's proposed national environmental standard for landfill gas collection and destruction as required by section 32 of the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA).
Unlike other countries, New Zealand has no national standards for environmental protection. The introduction of national environmental standards will provide an equitable bottom-line health protection for all New Zealanders. National environmental standards have been advocated by industry to give both a level playing field across regions and certainty in decision-making under the RMA.
The Ministerial Panel on Business Compliance Costs recommended that the Government investigate the use of national planning instruments, such as national standards, to improve consistency in decision-making.
National environmental standards [A separate section 32 document has been prepared for the proposed air quality standards.] have the force of regulation and will be implemented by agencies and parties with responsibilities under the RMA. The standards are prepared in accordance with sections 43 and 44 of the RMA.
In August 2003 the Government agreed that "the Ministry for the Environment undertake an extensive public consultation on a range of proposed standards, including air quality standards, ... and landfill gas capture and destruction".
1.2 The Section 32 evaluation and report
The Minister for the Environment has proposed introducing a national environmental standard for landfill gas collection and destruction. Section 32 of the RMA requires the Minister, prior to making a regulation, to evaluate the objectives and policies of the regulation and to prepare a report summarising the evaluation. The requirements are contained within section 32 of the RMA:
(3) An evaluation must examine:
(a) the extent to which each objective is the most appropriate way to achieve the purpose of this Act; and
(b) whether, having regard to their efficiency and effectiveness, the policies, rules, or other methods are the most appropriate for achieving the objectives.
(4) For the purposes of this examination, an evaluation must take into account:
(a) the benefits and costs of policies, rules, or other methods; and
(b) the risk of acting or not acting if there is uncertain or insufficient information about the subject matter of the policies, rules, or other methods.
There are two main aspects to the test of appropriateness:
- weighing up alternative objectives to determine which one will provide environmental outcomes that will best meet the purpose of the Act
- being satisfied that the objective chosen can best be achieved through the Act, rather than through some other mechanism.
Getting a measure of effectiveness involves assessing how well something might work.
Determining the relative efficiency of various alternatives is a more difficult exercise, and involves an examination of costs and benefits. A measure of efficiency is the extent to which the proposed method achieves the purpose of the Act, compared to the magnitude of what is foregone as a result of using this method. Assessing this involves calculating and comparing the net environmental benefits against the net social and economic benefits. Thus the more the net environmental benefits exceed the net social and economic costs, the more efficient the option is. The smaller the net environmental benefits in relation to the net social and economic costs, the less efficient the option is (Ministry for the Environment, 2000).
In evaluating the efficiency of the proposed national environmental standard, some assumptions have been made about how the policies might be put into practice by local government.