The Treasury

Global Navigation

Personal tools

Environmental Policy

The New Zealand Government recognises the importance of the country's environment and natural resources to its social and economic development.

New Zealand is wealthy in natural resources. There is plentiful fresh water resources; clean air; fertile soil and a climate well-suited to people, trees, livestock and agriculture; long coastlines and significant aquaculture resources; low energy use, waste and carbon dioxide emissions per unit of economic output; significant mineral and petroleum reserves; and extraordinary biodiversity on land and in the rivers, lakes and surrounding ocean. The World Bank estimates that New Zealand ranks eighth out of 120 countries in natural capital per capita, outranked only by petroleum-exporting countries.

Given the importance of the primary sector to the economy, better management of freshwater and other renewable resources, the continued protection of biodiversity and marine resources, reducing waste and improving energy efficiency are all essential for creating wealth and providing higher living standards for New Zealanders. Programmes are in place or under further development in all these areas.

The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) provides a national framework for balancing environmental protection with economic, social and cultural values. Local government has the major responsibility for delivering resource management planning and consenting, with central government providing guidance on how to apply the RMA and direction on matters of national importance. Amendments to the RMA in 2009 streamlined and simplified processes and created a new agency, the Environmental Protection Authority, to facilitate decision-making on proposals of national significance. Further proposed amendments are intended to strengthen planning outcomes, reduce uncertainty, reduce costs and delays and enhance Maori participation in resource management processes.

Climate change presents a particular challenge for New Zealand, both from an international and domestic policy perspective. New Zealand is a small country with a unique emissions profile driven by the predominance of land-use industries. Despite New Zealand's relatively small contribution to global emissions, the Government is nonetheless committed to participating constructively in the international climate change dialogue.

An Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is in place, designed to assist New Zealand in meeting international climate change commitments at least cost and to reduce New Zealand's net emissions below business-as-usual levels by placing obligations on emitters to surrender units in relation to their emissions. The ETS came into force in 2008 and has been periodically reviewed and adjusted since then. The ETS is being reviewed again in 2016 to ensure the scheme helps New Zealand meets its international emission reduction targets at least cost.

Page top