Reflecting on what I learnt from researching the last 50 years of environmental policy and management in New Zealand, a question has arisen in my mind that is – I believe – a vitally important one, with strong relevance to the environmental challenges we face today. That is, in rejecting “top-down” town planning, as represented by the Town and Country Act 1977 and its predecessors, and embracing an environmental management regime that focused on minimising effects of activities once they happen, did the government abandon its legitimate mandate to shape a better future via environmental planning? Continue reading
Resource Management Act
Canterbury Plains: an ecological “ground zero”
An article in the New Zealand Listener by Rebecca Macfie is entitled “Nature ground zero” and describes an initiative in Canterbury to give “a new lease of life” to “the devastated native flora of the Canterbury Plains” [click here to read article]. The initiative is to identify and encourage the reintroduction of indigenous plant species which provide “ecosystem services” such as the provision of pollen and nectar to attract beneficial insects, improved soil health, weed suppression, the control of pest insects, and greater biodiversity. The project is focused on the Waipara Valley of Northern Canterbury, which is renowned for its vineyards, but has potential to be applied across Canterbury. Continue reading
A short history of regional government in NZ
The recent government intervention in Canterbury, which led to the replacement of the Environment Canterbury’s elected council with government-appointed commissioners [click here to read more], has brought regional councils into the spotlight. Regional councils are responsible for the bulk of environmental management and regulation in New Zealand. But what is their history and does their history provide any clues to the plight that ECan finds itself in? Continue reading
Lindsay Gow’s thoughts on the RMA: 20 years on
Following on from his earlier contribution, Two decades of environmental policy – then and now, former Ministry for the Environment Deputy Secretary Lindsay Gow also shared his thoughts on the efficacy of the Resource Management Act since it was enacted in 1991, and on what tasks remain to be tackled in the area of environmental policy:
The Resource Management Act has been with us for nearly twenty years. It was one of my biggest jobs. I consider that, on balance, it has worked successfully. It’s interesting to hear both pro and anti development people referring to the RMA as a legitimate means of making difficult resource decisions.
The RMA’s central notion of integrated resource management was ahead of its time in 1990. Thanks to the establishment of regional authorities administering it on a whole catchment basis, the RMA has delivered some notable results. Continue reading
Resource management law in NZ – a potted history
Whether we like it or loathe it, the Resource Management Act (RMA) is so much part of our social fabric and the way we make decisions about the environment today, it is hard to believe that only 20 years ago it was considered revolutionary, and groundbreaking by international standards. When it was enacted in 1991, the RMA repealed 78 statutes and regulations, and amended numerous others, to provide a single piece of legislation for the management of land, water, soil and air throughout New Zealand.
It came at a time of great change in local and central governance in New Zealand, particularly in relation to environmental management. Up until 1986, most policy and legislation relating to the environment was developed or administered by the monolithic Ministry of Works or the Forest Service, the key pieces of environmental management legislation being the Town and Country Planning Act 1977 and the Soil Conservation and Rivers Control Act 1941 (not to be confused with the Water and Soil Conservation Act, enacted in 1967) . But by the 1980s, there was a growing recognition that these pieces of legislation had become outdated and were in need of review. Continue reading