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Digest No. 1816

Environmental Protection Authority Bill 2010

Date of Introduction: 16 November 2010
Portfolio: Environment
Select Committee: As at 23 November, 1st Reading not held.
Published: 23 November 2010byJohn McSoriley BA LL.B, Barrister,Legislative AnalystP: (04) 817-9626 (Ext. 9626)F: (04) 817-1250Public enquiries:Parliamentary Information Service: (04 817-9647) Caution: This Digest was prepared to assist consideration of the Bill by members of Parliament. It has no official status.Although every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, it should not be taken as a complete or authoritative guide to the Bill. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.

Purpose

The Bill, which is an omnibus Bill amending the Climate Change Response Act 2002, the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996, and the Resource Management Act 1991, establishes a new Environmental Protection Authority (the EPA) as a Crown agent under the Crown Entities Act 2004.

Background

In a recent media release, the Minister for the Environment, Hon Nick Smith said; "The EPA is about providing stronger central government leadership on environmental issues," Dr Smith said. "The existing framework is too devolved resulting in the same issues being re-litigated across 78 local authorities. It is more efficient and effective for a small country of 4.3 million people to regulate some environmental issues nationally.

"The second objective of the new EPA is to give greater clarity to national environmental functions. The Government's reforms are about the Ministry for the Environment (MFE) being focused on policy, the EPA on administering regulations and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment as the overall systems auditor. The EPA brings together under one roof regulatory functions currently administered by the Environment Ministry, the Ministry of Economic Development (MED) and the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA).

"The third rationale for the EPA is to ensure appropriate independence for regulatory functions from Ministers. New functions such as national consenting and the administration of the Emissions Trading Scheme are more appropriately done at arms-length from Government in an independent crown entity."

The Media release said that the key regulatory features of the EPA will be:

  • National consenting under the Resource Management Act (currently done by the EPA statutory office housed in MFE);

  • Regulation of pesticides, fireworks, explosives and other hazardous substances (currently ERMA);

  • Regulation of new and genetically modified organisms (currently ERMA);

  • Administrative functions of the ETS, including register (currently MED);

  • International obligations on hazardous waste (currently MED);

  • Advice to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade regarding environmental assessments for Antarctica NZ (currently MFE);

  • Advice and information on the development and implementation of National Environmental Standards (currently MFE) [1]   .

The Bill’s regulatory statement is to be found here: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/news/2010-06-03-epa-announcement.html

Main Provisions

Purpose

The Bill states that its purpose is to establish the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and to provide for its functions and operation (Part 1, Clause 3).

Environmental Protection Authority

The Bill establishes the EPA and provides that it is a Crown entity and that the Crown Entities Act 2004 applies to the EPA except to the extent that the Bill or any other enactment expressly provides otherwise. The Minister appoint its board of which there must be no fewer than 6 and no more than 8 members, at least 1 of whom has knowledge and experience relating to the Treaty of Waitangi and tikanga Māori (Part 2, Clauses 6-10).

Functions of the EPA

The Bill provides that the functions of the EPA is to advise the Minister in relation to its functions and to exercise any powers conferred on it by or under an “environmental Act” (i.e. under the Climate Change Response Act 2002, the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996, and the Resource Management Act 1991) and to carry out additional functions consistent with its objective. (The objective of the EPA is to undertake its functions in a way that … “contributes to the efficient, effective, and transparent management of New Zealand’s environment and natural and physical resources” and “enables New Zealand to meet its international obligations”) . The Bill provides for Maori advisory committees to provide advice and assistance to the EPA on matters relating to policy, process and decisions of the EPA (Part 2, Clauses 11-20).

Disestablishment and transfer

The Bill deals with the disestablishment of certain entities (such as the Environmental Protection Authority established under the Resource Management Act 1991 and ERMA and Nga Kaihautu Tikanga Taiao (the Maori advisory committee to ERMA)) and the consequences such as the transfer of staff and contractual obligations (Part 3, Subparts 1-4 Clauses 21-47).

Climate Change Response Act 2002

The Bill amends the Climate Change Response Act 2002 to allow the EPA to take over the following functions in relation to the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS):

  • keeping a register of persons who carry out activities and a register of participants;

  • receiving and collating data provided by participants;

  • administering allocations relating to industry and agriculture;

  • approving the use of unique emissions factors by participants;

  • directing the Registrar to transfer New Zealand units to which participants are entitled for removal activities to participants' holdings accounts;

  • ensuring participants comply with, and enforcing, Parts 4 and 5 of the Act;

  • publishing information;

  • issuing emissions rulings to help persons meet their obligations.

The Bill makes amendments consequential on the transfer of these functions to the EPA (Part 4, Clauses 48-64).

Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996

The Bill amends the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 to replace the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) with the EPA (Part 5, Clauses 65-74).

Resource Management Act 1991

The Bill makes amendments to the Resource Management Act 1991 that are consequential to the disestablishment of the existing EPA established under Section 42B of the Resource Management Act 1991 and the establishment of the EPA as a Crown entity by Clause 6. The new EPA will take over the functions of the disestablished EPA under the Resource Management Act. In addition, the EPA will advise the Minister on whether a matter is, or is part of, a proposal of national significance in the context of the Minister's power to call in proposals and make recommendations to the Minister in relation to the proposal (Part 6, Clauses 75-85).

Copyright: © NZ Parliamentary Library, 2010
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  1. Media Release, Nick Smith, Environmental Protection Authority Bill introduced, 16 November, 2010..   [back]