The Minister for the Environment has proposed the National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity (the proposed NPS).
A national policy statement is a tool under the Resource Management Act 1991 (the RMA) to provide statutory guidance to decision-makers, including local authorities. The purpose of a national policy statement is to state objectives and policies on matters of national significance that are relevant to promoting the sustainable management of natural and physical resources.5
The proposed NPS is expected to lead to enhanced ability for local authorities to effectively deliver their existing function to maintain indigenous biological diversity by:
- providing clearer direction to local authorities on their obligations under the RMA
- setting the minimum expectations regarding the identification of areas and habitats to be considered important for the maintenance of biodiversity
- promoting a nationally consistent approach to biodiversity protection by clarifying the hierarchy that should apply to managing adverse effects and the place of biodiversity offsets
- recognising and providing for the existing good practice of local authorities.
Section 32 of the RMA6 requires the Minister for the Environment to evaluate the objectives and policies of the proposed NPS and prepare a report summarising that evaluation. This report presents the section 32 evaluation for the proposed NPS.
1.2 Section 32 evaluation and methodology
A section 32 evaluation is required for policies and plans prepared under the RMA, including national policy statements. The purpose of the evaluation is to assess the benefits and costs of a proposed NPS, and its objectives and policies in particular, against the purpose of the RMA.
Specifically, section 32 states that:
(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 the examinations referred to in subsections (3) and (3A), 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.
The section 32 evaluation is a critical aspect of the NPS development process. Section 32A allows submissions to challenge an objective, policy, rule or other method on the grounds that section 32 has not been adequately complied with. For this reason, it is essential that an appropriate evaluation process be used.
Section 32 of the RMA does not explicitly require an evaluation of whether the NPS is ‘desirable’. That assessment is required separately under section 45 of the RMA. Section 32 does, however, require an assessment of alternative approaches to the proposed NPS. The key alternative to the proposed NPS is the status quo. The status quo therefore serves as the baseline for this evaluation, which focuses on the differences, in terms of benefits and costs, between the status quo and the proposed alternative.
In accordance with the requirements of section 32, this evaluation describes how native biodiversity outside public conservation land is currently managed (ie, the status quo) and then asks the following questions:
- What is the problem that needs to be addressed?
- What are we trying to achieve?
- Is this an appropriate outcome to be achieving under the RMA?
- What are the policy and regulatory options, and why is a NPS the preferred option?
- Is the objective of the proposed NPS the best policy option to achieve the purpose of the RMA when compared to other potential interventions?
- Will the proposed policies be effective and are they the most appropriate way to achieve the proposed objective (in terms of benefits and costs) when compared to alternative policies?
- What are the risks of acting or not acting to address the resource management issues?
In considering the appropriateness of the objective of the proposed NPS, regard is given to:
- the purpose of the objective, which is to state the outcome sought by resolving a resource management issue
- whether, by resolving that issue, the objective will help achieve the purpose of the RMA, which is to promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources.
Having considered the appropriateness of the objective, the related policies are then evaluated, including the assessment of alternative approaches to achieving the objective. In evaluating the policies, regard is given to:
- the costs and benefits of each policy and, having considered these matters, how efficient the policy would be in achieving the objective
- how effective, or successful, the policies will be in achieving the objective and thereby resolving the relevant issue.
Finally, it is important to note that for the purposes of a section 32 evaluation under the RMA, the terms ‘costs’ and ‘benefits’ take broad meanings and include environmental, social, cultural and economic matters.
1.2 Structure of this report
The document is structured as follows.
- Chapter 1: Introduction. This sets out the purpose and structure of this report. It also explains what the RMA requires in terms of a ‘section 32 evaluation’ and the methodology used in this instance.
- Chapter 2: Status quo. This chapter provides an overview of the legislation and other tools currently used to manage native biodiversity, on both public conservation land and on private land.
- Chapter 3: Situation under the status quo. This chapter examines the case for further intervention. It does this by looking at trends and issues relating to biodiversity protection and asking whether there really is an issue we should be concerned about.
- Chapter 4: What are we trying to achieve? This chapter looks at what we are trying to achieve and considers whether it is an appropriate outcome under the RMA.
- Chapter 5: Alternatives to the status quo. This chapter evaluates the regulatory and policy interventions that could be used to achieve the desired outcome for indigenous biodiversity outside public land. It also examines the risk of acting, or not acting.
- Chapter 6: Is the objective of proposed NPS the best policy option? This chapter evaluates the extent to which the objective of the proposed NPS is the most appropriate way to achieve the purpose of the RMA and, specifically, to address the resource management issue identified in chapter 3. It does this by assessing alternative methods of achieving the objective.
- Chapter 7: Will the proposed policies be effective? This chapter assesses the benefits and costs of the proposed and alternative policies, or other methods. It examines whether they are the most appropriate policies given their likely effectiveness and their likely cost, relative to the benefit that they are likely to deliver. It also assesses the risk of not acting where there are uncertainties about the nature and extent of the problem(s) the proposed policies are seeking to address.
- Chapter 8: Conclusions. This summarises the findings of the section 32 evaluation.