The fourth annual report on the activities of New Zealand’s environmental first responders and enforcement officers shows a trend toward stronger regulation by the Regional Sector and a larger, more-supported workforce operating in these critical roles.
Regional councils and unitary authorities manage over 280,000 active consents relating to the environment. These require regular monitoring to ensure that various conditions are being met.
64,122 inspections during 2020-21 found fewer than 5% of consent holders to be ‘significantly non-compliant’. Regional Councils received calls about almost 30,000 potential pollution incidents and responded to 99% of these.
The report also highlights a significant 71 prosecutions in progress, plus over 5000 abatement notices and 2150 infringement notices issued in the past year. For the worst offenders, regional councils received decisions from the courts relating to 95 cases, and received a total of nearly $5.2 million in fines, which offset some of the costs of regulation activities.
Horizons Regional Council Chief Executive, Michael McCartney, speaking on behalf of Aotearoa’s 16 Regional and Unitary Councils, says this report is just one of the sector’s initiatives to ensure an aligned approach for compliance, monitoring and enforcement across the regions.
“The Regional Sector continues to work collaboratively between regional and unitary councils to promote consistency and best practice in natural resource regulation.”
“The encouraging results in this year’s report demonstrate a mature and adapting regional sector, which is well placed amid a number of national reform programmes,” says Mr McCartney.
“Informed decision-making, collaborative and consistent work enables us to serve our communities and protect and enhance our natural resources – which includes enforcing the rules,” he adds.
The annual report is commissioned to assess the performance of the regional sector’s compliance, monitoring and enforcement workforce in relation to the Resource Management Act, and is used by the Regional Sector to inform positive change and ensure that positive environmental outcomes are being delivered.
The Regional Sector employs about 500 staff around the country to proactively monitor compliance with resource consents, respond to pollution incidents and complaints from the public, and enforce the Resource Management Act where required.
Regional Councils continued to prioritise the health of the environment and communities throughout both COVID lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, with the compliance, monitoring and enforcement areas operating as essential services.