Introduction to Environmental Impact Assesment in New Zealand

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  • Topic: Environmental law, Environmental impact assessment, Environmentalism
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  • Published : September 17, 2008
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Assignment 1
Environment Impact Assessment
Paul Cronin

Paul Cronin


The purpose of this essay is to critically assess the approach that New Zealand has taken with the application of Environmental Assessment (EIA). The first part of this essay will identify and review the introduction of EIA in New Zealand and look at it’s history. The next section will identify and discuss the purpose and principals of EIA. The next part of the report will then outline the current application of EIA and its incorporation into New Zealand’s law and policy. The final part of this essay will be an assessment of the approach that New Zealand has taken.

Within New Zealand the impetus for environmental protection and associated legislation has been attributed to the Save Manapouri Campaign (Open Polytechnic of New Zealand 2008). This is a reasonable view in that the first real EIA were conducted in this campaign and the resulting outcry over the possible impacts was significant. Michael King in The History of New Zealand (2003) said that “it started a national debate on environmental issues involving…politicians, scientists, professional planners and members of the public” Certainly there is other evidence that points to much earlier impetus, in 1874 the Forests Bill Act was introduced into Parliament because of concerns about forest denudation and there were protests about the actions of The New Zealand Forest Service in the 1940’s.

Paul Cronin
There were many other mini movements and concerns over the century preceding the introduction of the EPEP. In addition to these New Zealand forces there was a background of international environmental actions stemming from the 1972 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development Nations in Geneva, this conference was held in a time of much change with Nations Worldwide Governmental bodies such as the United Nations and others started to become environmentally aware. There were other movements such as Greenpeace that were formed in this era. There were sometimes individual actions against proposed projects and in other cases there was legislation for EIA, (Peart, 2007).

This EIA legislation had its roots in America in the 1970’s (ibid). This impacted in New Zealand with an audit of our environmental policies in 1980 by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). This highlighted the ineffectiveness of current policies (Peart, 2007). It is not the intention of the writer to list a complete history or catalogue of these groups merely to indicate the broadness of the influences that were the catalyst for modern day legislation and government policy.

Environmental Protection and Enhancement Procedures (EP&EP)
Environmental legislation paving the way for Environmental Impact Assessments is relatively recent in New Zealand in its legislative form. In 1974 EP&EP were adopted by Cabinet. Whilst these were adopted by Cabinet they were never given any recognition in law. EPEP had a number of shortcomings as it only applied to government organisations or groups that required Governmental licences or received funding from Government (Ministry of Environment, 2005) (Boshier 1998). EIA reports were relatively rare with the number of reports averaging just nine per year from 1974 to 1985 (Wells and Fookes 1989).

Paul Cronin
There were significant barriers to the efficacy of EIA reports. These took various forms ranging from governmental attitudes that saw EIA as an intrusion in their areas through to legal inadmissibility issues due to the non legislative basis of EIA reports (Boshier 1998). These shortcomings were highlighted as mentioned before by OECD audit in 1980 and subsequent follow up to this audit lead to a review of the EP&Ep and the passing of legislation namely the Environment Act.

Environment Act 1986 (EA)
This was a scaffold for environmental...
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