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Environmental administration today

As a result of the reforms, the main players in today's system of environmental management are local authorities-regional councils and territorial authorities (including unitary authorities). Non-governmental organisations also play an important role (see Box 4.1) The hierarchy of central and local government responsibilities is set out below. Agencies' responsibility under the Resource Management Act are described in more detail later in this chapter (see Figure 4.2).

Central Government

Ministers have responsibility under legislation:

  • for the management of certain resources eg. fisheries management;
  • for national responses to issues of concern that affect the nation as a whole eg. national pest management strategies under the Biosecurity Act, and the setting of national controls for hazardous substances and new organisms under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act; and
  • for overall administration of the various Acts to ensure appropriate actions are undertaken and that the legal provisions in those Acts do not create impediments to good environmental management.

Regional Councils

Regional councils are elected local government bodies that coordinate, and set policy for, resource management, including water and soil conservation, and transport. They also have some residual responsibilities for civil defence, drainage, pest management and control.

Territorial Authorities

Territorial authorities are elected district or city councils. For the most part, functions of territorial authorities are complementary to those undertaken by regional councils, but focused on local service requirements. They cover water supply, control of land development, recreational facilities including parks and reserves, local roading and transport activities, sewerage and stormwater drainage, community development, and other public works.

Unitary Authorities

There are four unitary authorities with combined responsibilities for resource management and service delivery. The Gisborne, Marlborough and Tasman District and Nelson City councils therefore have both regional and territorial authority functions under the Resource Management Act.

Figure 4.2: The structure of government and environmental responsibilities

Structure of government and environmental responsibilities.

National and international responsibilities

Central Government: Makes laws and national policies and manages Crown-owned resources.

Executive (Government)

Crown Regulatory Authorities

  • Building Industry Authority
  • Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA)
  • Land Transport Safety Authority
  • Maritime Safety Authority

Government Ministries and Departments (and main environmental legislation administered by them)

  • Department of Conservation (Conservation Act, Wildlife Act)
  • Ministry for the Environment (Environment Act, Resource Management Act)
  • Ministry of Agriculture (Biosecurity Act)
  • Ministry of Commerce (Crown Minerals Act, Ozone Layer Protection Act)
  • Ministry of Fisheries (Fisheries Act)
  • Ministry of Forestry (Forests Act)
  • Land Information New Zealand (Land Act)
  • Ministry of Research, Science, & Technology (Foundation for Research Science and Technology Act)
  • Ministry of Transport (Transport Act)

Statutory Boards and Tribunals

  • Forest Heritage fund
  • Foundation of Research Science and Technology
  • Historic Places Trust
  • New Zealand Conservation Authority
  • Nga Whenua Rahui
  • Queen Elizabeth II National Trust
  • Regional Conservation Boards

Legislature (Parliament)

Parliamentary Officers

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment

Judiciary (Law courts)

Specialist Courts and Tribunals

Environment Court

Regional, district and city responsibilities

Local Government: Makes regulations through policies and plans to ensure sustainable management of local environment.

Territorial Authorities

Chatham Islands Council, 55 District Councils, 14 City Councils and 4 Unitary Authorities - all with Community Boards underneath them.

District Councils

  • Ashburton
  • Banks Peninsula
  • Buller
  • Carterton
  • Central Hawkes Bay
  • Central Otago
  • Clutha
  • Far North
  • Franklin
  • Gore
  • Grey
  • Hastings
  • Hauraki
  • Horowhenua
  • Hurunui
  • Kaikoura
  • Kaipara
  • Kapiti Coast
  • Kawerau
  • Mackenzie
  • Manawatu
  • Masterton
  • Matamata/Piako
  • New Plymouth
  • Opotiki
  • Otorohanga
  • Papakura
  • Queenstown Lakes
  • Rangitikei
  • Rodney
  • Rotorua
  • Ruapehu
  • Tararua
  • Taupo
  • Tauranga
  • Thames/Coromandel
  • Timaru
  • Selwyn
  • South Taranaki
  • South Wairarapa
  • South Waikato
  • Southland
  • Stratford
  • Waikato
  • Waimaki
  • Waimakariri
  • Waimate
  • Waipa
  • Wairoa
  • Waitomo
  • Wanganui
  • Western Bay of Plenty
  • Westland
  • Whakatane
  • Whangarei

City Councils

  • Auckland
  • Christchurch
  • Dunedin
  • Hamilton
  • Hutt
  • Invercargill
  • Manukau
  • Napier
  • North Shore
  • Palmerston North
  • Porirua
  • Upper Hutt
  • Waitakere
  • Wellington

Unitary Authorities

  • Nelson City
  • Tasman District
  • Gisborne District
  • Marlborough District

Regional Authorities

12 Regional Councils as well as the 4 Unitary Authorities listed under Territorial Authorities.

Regional Councils

  • Northland
  • Auckland
  • Hawkes Bay
  • Bay of Plenty
  • Taranaki
  • Waikato
  • Manawatu-Wanganui
  • Wellington
  • West Coast
  • Canterbury
  • Otago
  • Southland
Box 4.1: The Role of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)

The impetus for environmental policies and laws in New Zealand has often come from the public through the lobbying of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society, Greenpeace, the Maruia Society, the Federated Mountain Clubs, and Environment and Conservation Organisations (ECO). Contributions are also made by the Royal Society of New Zealand. The ability of these organisations to reflect and mobilise public and expert opinion has often persuaded the government to develop new policies or reconsider existing ones.

Since the reforms of the late 1980s, and especially since the passing of the Resource Management Act, the public (including NGOs) have had better access to environmental decision-makers. The Act's consultation and public submission processes enable NGOs to have their views considered more easily. In fact, the Act tacitly assumes that the community can act as a watchdog in holding all decision makers under the Act accountable for the environmental effects of their decisions. This assumption applies not only to environmental organisations, but also to other groups such as industry groups, iwi, and neighbourhood organisations.