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2. Responsibilities of the Minister for the Environment

The Resource Management Act 1991 is the primary legislation in New Zealand for managing our environment. Under this Act, the Minister for the Environment is responsible for:

  • recommending national policy statements and national environmental standards
  • calling in proposals of national significance for ministerial decision, which you would make after considering the recommendations of a Board of Inquiry
  • recommending that an applicant be approved as a requiring authority or as a heritage protection authority
  • recommending water conservation orders and monitoring their implementation
  • monitoring the effect and implementation of the Resource Management Act (including any regulations in force under it), national policy statements and national environmental standards
  • monitoring the relationship between the functions, powers and duties of central government and local government
  • investigating matters of environmental significance
  • considering the use of economic instruments.

You have limited powers to:

  • appoint people to carry out the functions of a local authority if you consider that it is not performing to the extent necessary to achieve the purpose of the Act
  • make grants and loans to assist in achieving the purpose of the Resource Management Act. (Several funds exist for this purpose.)

The Resource Management Amendment Act No 5 (2005) gave the Minister for the Environment additional powers to:

  • review the performance of councils
  • direct a council to prepare a plan to address resource management issues in a region or direct a territorial authority to change its district plan
  • request information held by a council at no cost to the Minister.

The Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 controls the introduction to New Zealand of hazardous substances and new organisms, including genetically modified organisms. Under this Act, the Minister for the Environment may:

  • appoint members to the Environmental Risk Management Authority
  • issue policy directions to the Authority
  • call in an application which has significant effects, and make a decision on the application, using the Authority as advisers.

The Minister for the Environment has powers (though no obligation) under the Soil Conservation and Rivers Control Act 1941 to make grants and loans for fencing, planting and other work to prevent soil erosion.

The Ministry will provide support for you in carrying out these responsibilities, as well as informing and supporting your decision making on all aspects of environmental policy and administration.

As Minister for the Environment you are responsible for directing and overseeing the work of the Ministry for the Environment. The broad direction of our work over the next few years is set out in our Statement of Intent 2005 - 2008. We will discuss with you the activities proposed for 2005/06, which are documented in our Output Plan.

Though the Ministry for the Environment is responsible for leading whole of government work on climate change and oceans policy, to date these have not been the responsibility of the Minister for the Environment.

Crown agencies

The Ministry for the Environment works closely with the two Crown agencies for which our Ministers have responsibility. We monitor their activities and performance on behalf of Ministers, and also provide advice on appointments to the boards of these authorities.

The Environmental Risk Management Authority makes decisions about the introduction to New Zealand of hazardous substances and new organisms, including genetically modified organisms. It is accountable to the Minister for the Environment.

The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority promotes energy efficiency, energy conservation, and the use of sources of renewable energy. It is accountable to the Minister of Energy.

These agencies will provide separate briefings about their activities.

Bioethics Council

The Bioethics Council was set up as a Ministerial Advisory Committee, in response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification. It reports to the Government through the Minister for the Environment. The Council's role is to:

  • provide independent advice to government on biotechnological issues involving significant cultural, ethical and spiritual dimensions
  • promote and participate in public dialogue on cultural, ethical and spiritual aspects of biotechnology, and enable public participation in the Council's activities
  • provide information on the cultural, ethical and spiritual aspects of biotechnology.

The Minister for the Environment appoints the members of the Bioethics Council. The Council is supported by a secretariat in the Ministry for the Environment.