The Government has introduced the Environmental Protection Authority Bill which has been referred to the Local Government Select Committee for report back by 28 March 2011. Submissions on the Bill have been called by the select committee and close on 28 January 2011.

The Bill builds on the work of the first phase of the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) reforms in 2009 that created a notional Environmental Protection Authority within the Ministry for the Environment for undertaking national consenting functions. This Authority will be disestablished and replaced by a new Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) under the Bill.

A number of environmental regulation functions will be consolidated in the new EPA, with the aim of improving the transparency, quality and efficiency of environmental decision making. The EPA will take over the functions of the Environmental Risk Management Authority under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996, and the administration of the Emissions Trading Scheme, with the exception of forestry, under the Climate Change Response Act 2002. The EPA will also process matters for proposals of national significance called-in under the RMA, and provide advice and information on national environmental standards developed under the RMA.

In brief, the key regulatory features of the EPA will be:

  • national consenting under the RMA;
  • regulation of pesticides, fireworks, explosives and other hazardous substances;
  • regulation of new and genetically modified organisms;
  • administrative functions of the ETS, including the register;
  • international obligations on hazardous waste;
  • advice to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade regarding environmental assessments for Antarctica NZ; and
  • advice and information on the development and implementation of National Environmental Standards.

The intention is for the functions under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act and the RMA to be transferred to the EPA on 1July 2011, and the functions under the Climate Change Response Act to be transferred on 30 September 2011.