Are we learning from past practice: The potential for follow-up as an environmental management tool in New Zealand
All development has the potential to cause adverse effects to the environment. Worldwide, environmental concern regarding these effects has significantly increased over the past forty years. This has led to the implementation of environmental legislation and associated requirements for Impact Assessment (IA). The effectiveness of this legislation and other aspects of the effects management framework in protecting the environment have, however, been questioned. The current research firstly examined IA, to identify whether this process was capable of achieving desired environmental outcomes. It found that a primary factor in determining if IA could be an environmental management tool depends on whether follow-up is included in this process. Namely, this includes the use of monitoring, auditing, management and communication of the actual effects of a development. This research highlighted that the IA process can achieve desired environmental outcomes but that it relies on legislation, policy and political support to be effective. In New Zealand, the environmental effects of development are managed, primarily through the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA). This process was examined and it was identified that while the RMA provides requirements for environmental management, through the use of monitoring and management provisions, these are seldom used by local authorities. Therefore, the environmental effects of development are not currently being effectively managed. This conclusion was supported by key informants’ comments. However, the literature on planning documents and the effectiveness of Assessments of Effects on the Environment (AEEs) indicated that the quality of both have improved since the implementation of the RMA. In New Zealand, the primary means of identifying ways to mitigate environmental effects is through an AEEs, which provide IA in New Zealand. As noted above, follow-up is a key element of an effective IA process. The only component of follow-up that is commonly used in New Zealand is monitoring, which is not used to assess the actual effects of the development but rather, to ensure compliance with consent conditions. A number of key informants identified that currently, the environmental effects of development are not effectively managed and many considered that the application of follow-up would assist in improving such management. Questions on how and in what contexts follow-up should be implemented elicited a broad range of responses from key informants, and these responses appeared to link to their areas of work. Those involved in urban development stated that the overall effects (i.e. plan effectiveness, and general detractions from environmental quality) were key areas to be followed-up. However, key informants involved in large scale developments considered that follow-up should occur as part of the project development/implementation process thus allowing ongoing management. The range of opinions highlights that further research would need to be undertaken before any modifications are made to Schedule 4 or plan monitoring requirements of the RMA. This research outlines that while individuals at local authorities know their job well, they may not understand the complexities and wide ranging effects of large developments. This is further impacted by the siloed nature of planning departments. The research suggests that the use of a more integrated approach to effects management may be required. Oversight committees consisting of representatives of stakeholder groups, like that established for the BHPB Etaki Mine, may be the solution to these management issues.
Advisor: Morgan, Richard
Degree Name: Master of Planning
Degree Discipline: Geography
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Impact Assessment; Planning; Environmental Management; Resource Management
Research Type: Thesis