Progress with Implementing the Environmental Assessment Requirements of the Resource Management Act in New Zealand
The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) has introduced environmental impact assessment (EIA) into the operations of territorial authorities at the regional and district level in New Zealand. The system established by the RMA is not only devolved in administrative terms, it is also comprehensive in its application. This paper reports the findings of an interview-based survey of key personnel in selected regional and district councils, along with others from government departments, planning consultancies and law firms. The purpose is to assess the success of the councils in developing appropriate and workable procedures, and to identify the main problems likely to inhibit the development of an effective EIA system in New Zealand. Overall, the task of implementing the EIA requirements has been tackled positively by councils, but there are signs of major differences emerging in the EIA procedures they are developing. Key issues that need to be considered by councils include: the need for explanatory documentation for, and verbal advice to, resource consents applicants at the earliest stage possible; the lack of public involvement in the EIA activities and the need for council staff to encourage and facilitate such participation; and problems with ensuring the adequacy of EIA information in such a devolved and comprehensive EIA system.
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