Environmental Law in New Zealand
New Zealand is in an enviable position as it has been able to learn from the mistakes of other nations, however this does not mean disasterous environmental issues cannot arise here. Fortunately New Zealand has well established environmental laws with several legislative statutes and governmental authorities. Following international trends and heightened awareness of environmental issues throughout the years the legislation has become increasingly integrated. Arising from international research and public concern new statutes have also been created the most significant of which is the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA).
Contributing Factors and Benefits
Before the RMA, New Zealand environmental law and its administration was similar to that of many other countries, consisting of an assortment of uncoordinated and overlapping statutes, regulations and practices. The Soil Conservation and Rivers Control Act 1941 was the first of such legislative statutes centred on use of the land and resources. Social change in the 1960's spurred awareness of environmental issues in New Zealand with events such as the Save Manapouri Campaign (1959-1972) opposing the development of the hydro-electric scheme planned for Lake Manapouri. During this period several statutes were created, the Nature Conservation Council Act 1962 and the Environment Council in 1970 acknowledging that economic interests can often override environmental concerns. The Save Manapori Campaign culminated in 1972 with a change of government, the newly elected Labour Government set about fulfilling it's election promise of environmental reform creating the Commision for the Environment. The agency later became the Office of the Parliamentary Commisioner for the Environment after the creation of the Environment Act 1986 establishing the Ministry for the Environment. The Department of Conservation, the Ministry of Conservation and Fish and Game were formed shortly after with the implementation of the Conservation Act 1987.
In January 1988, Deputy Prime Minister Geoffrey announced a comprehensive review of the many environment and resource acts in place, as well as the procedures for assessing environmental effects. This Resource Mangagement Law Review (RMLR) was established to address concerns by environmentalists and Maori who both believed the public lacked access to information and the government had too much power. Along with inadequate protection of resources and little attention to Maori and environmental values in economic decisions. The review was managed by the Ministry for the Environment encompassing Maori ideas of stewardship and sustainability it focused on existing New Zealand resource law and public reaction to deficiencies within those laws.
The RMLR was drafted and the subsequent Resource Management Bill was put before parliament but not passed into law before the 1990 general election. The victorious National Party decided to continue the process of resource management reform. Minister for the Environment Simon Upton reviewed the bill and to the surprise of many made it greener, changing the bill from its original objective of balancing economics and environment to constraining economical objectives to suit the environment, embracing the approach of sustainable management. Upton addressed parliament on his re-written RMA stating that its purpose was not one of contolling and planning economic activity but one of sustaining, rectifying and mitigating the effects on the use of natural resources. The bill was passed in 1991 and has become the preeminant legislation concerning the management of the environment in New Zealand replacing 69 Acts and 19 regulations, it describes sustainable management as: (1) The purpose of this Act is to promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources. (2) In this Act, sustainable management means managing the use, development, and protection of...
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