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Environment 2000 Speech - Marian Hobbs

Speech notes: Minister for the Environment HON MARIAN HOBBs Environment 2000 - COMPLIANCE MONITORING CONFERENCE, Plaza International Hotel, 1.15pm 12 April 2000

I am glad to have been given the opportunity to set the scene for this year's compliance monitoring conference. Looking over the programme it is clear that you have some interesting sessions ahead of you.

This afternoon I wish to tie together the two main themes from the programme that you will be discussing. In the first instance, compliance monitoring and enforcement, and state of the environment monitoring in the second. I also intend to outline where we have come from, why monitoring is important and what is coming up in the near future.

Because the audience here today includes policy writers, law enforcers, rule makers and perhaps even the odd rule breaker the key message I want to give you is that effective monitoring, compliance and information evaluation is absolutely critical in achieving desirable environmental outcomes for this country. You all play a key role in one way or another and I urge you for that reason not to forget the broader context in which you are working and heading towards.

The Resource Management Act has placed a greater emphasis on environmental monitoring than ever before. It also has (as many of you will be aware), as an underlying principle, that decision-making and implementation and evaluation of the RMA processes is best undertaken closest to the community of interest. I consider that achieving environmental outcomes has much more to do with the detail of good practice compared to the sometimes-circular interpretation of words.

Lets face it; many of you are at the hard edge of compliance monitoring and involved from time to time in tricky situations – environmental police officers if you like. It is you who face that group of rowdy party goers who want their sounds left up loud, or that angry contractor who does not understand the need for a required silt trap or the importance of checking a council plan to make sure that bush they want to clear is not protected. I want to applaud your efforts and acknowledge the good work that your organisations do. However, the work does go on and each of you have a role to play, just as Ministry officials have a role to ensure that you have the right legal tools to do your job.

Where have we come from?

Prior to the RMA being passed as law, compliance, monitoring of the state of the environment and evaluating plan effectiveness by authorities hadn’t occurred at all. The approach was more about storing information on the environment, than monitoring performance. Councils are now moving into a period of focus on RMA implementation – most plans have moved through the statutory process and many are now operative. Many resource consents have been issued. It is now inevitable that there will be a shift in both emphasis and council resources from policy development to monitoring and evaluation.

As you all know the RMA requires you to monitor:
 the environment,
 policy statement and plan suitability and effectiveness,
 compliance with resource consents; and/or
 your own functions where they have been delegated or transferred.

Knowledge on these areas of work is rapidly evolving.

I suspect you some of you may have occasional problems with these requirements. This is only natural. When you do, I encourage you to discuss you thoughts with ministry officials. They are here at this conference to listen to your views and provide me with feedback where appropriate.

Why monitoring is important?

Monitoring is essential to understand the impact of policies and activities. The information is used to paint the picture of trends in environmental quality. It also helps to get an understanding of the key problem areas. As you all know monitoring, in whatever form, is the crucial link that closes the loop. The local authority, the public (including tangata whenua), the consent holder and most importantly the environment all benefit. However, there is the opportunity for these benefits to be blurred when significant resource management issues are unclear or poorly prioritised. People, proper issue identification is so critical.

Developing technologies, improved ways of gathering information and the professional skills of practitioners are uniting. Together with the RMA they have set in place a solid base for the future of effective monitoring in New Zealand. This I am happy about.

What is next?

As you will appreciate, after less than five months in the job, I am not an overnight expert in all environmental issues facing New Zealand, nor the intricacies of the RMA. However, I am learning fast, enjoying the challenge and am keen to listen to your comments. As Minister for the Environment practitioners such as yourselves constantly remind me that you need, amongst other things:
 a robust legal framework to work under,
 information on appropriate policy tools; and
 better resources to involve people in resource management.

I can only go so far to address these requests however; I am always looking for opportunities to improve my game too. There are a number of new monitoring initiatives that are now available or just around the corner. These include:

 Training/Guidance
1) Local Government New Zealand, using funding from the Sustainable Management Fund recently produced the “Resource Management Enforcement Manual”. This guide is to be used to educate and improve local authority application and use of the RMA to achieve successful and cost effective enforcement action. I am informed that workshops about the content of this manual are envisaged for later in the year.

2) The Ministry’s Sustainable Management Fund has also funded Opus International Consultants to carry out an 18-month project in the Wellington region. The consultants have worked with Wellington local authorities. The project aims to develop a framework and resource kit, which will provide all local councils with practical step-by-step advice on how to undertake effective district plan monitoring. I am informed the kit is likely to be ready mid year. Another useful regional council project that has some similarities is the Integrated Monitoring report from Environment Waikato. Copies are available at the Ministry’s display stand.

 Infringement Offence Notices
I hesitate to steal the thunder from tomorrow's speakers so you will have to wait hear details until then. However, these new regulations provide another useful technique. The Ministry for the Environment will need to monitor their use. I am keen to hear feedback on how they are going.

 Indicators Programme
New Zealand’s national system for reporting on the state of the environment, the Environmental Performance Indicators Programme is being developed by Ministry for the Environment in collaboration with other agencies. The Ministry intends to have a toolbox of core environment al performance indicators available for use over the next year. A consultative road show will be held in upcoming months.

 The Quality Plan Project
The quality of district plans is an important focus of the Ministry’s work on improving practice and performance under the RMA. This is a partnership project involving the Resource Management Law Association, New Zealand Planning Institute, Local Government New Zealand, and the New Zealand Institute of Surveyors. In due course, it is envisaged that a web site will be developed that will identify and share good practice and plan preparation options. I am hopeful that this project will provide an invaluable resource on both plan preparation and the operation of plans, including how they are monitored.

 Offence Provisions of the RMA
It may well be appropriate in the near future to review the offence provisions of the Resource Management Act. Preliminary discussions with officials on the level of fines and the additional expense and delay associated with jury trials are being considered.

In summary, I have outlined where we have come from, why monitoring is a key link in the policy cycle and what you can expect in the future. I would encourage you to keep in mind over the next few days that each of you have a role to play in the effective operation of the RMA. What I mean by this is that environmental monitoring, compliance and the performance of plans are fundamental pieces in the puzzle that will deliver sustainable environmental outcomes.

Finding sound, long-term solutions to environmental problems is far more complex than the stroke of a pen from a distant policy office. Solutions rest in partnerships between stakeholders. Although regulation is used a lot as part of your work, the use of other options is important. All people will need to work together constructively. But true empowerment will depend on the sharing of information and the ongoing motivation to participate in the process. I believe when environmental issues are personalised, individuals and groups will help to resolve issues together and secure better environmental quality for us all.

This conference fulfils a vital role in extending knowledge and experience within the world of compliance monitoring and state of the environment monitoring. I encourage your full participation over the next three days and have pleasure in declaring the proceedings open.

Enjoy your time in Wellington and keep up the good work.

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