Minister David Parker on Environment Policy Priorities

An Overview 

Environment Minister David Parker delivered a speech last month outlining environment portfolio policy priorities for the next 12 months, in relation to improving freshwater quality, climate change and urban development. He also confirmed that a comprehensive review of the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) is to occur.   

Improving Freshwater Quality

The Minister identified improving freshwater quality as his number one priority in his capacity as Minister for the Environment.  Policy is to be implemented which is aimed at stopping degradation of freshwater within a generation, with the expectation that improvements will be seen in the next 5 years.

To achieve this, reform of the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management (NPS) is proposed. The NPS, which has been in place since 2011, requires regional authorities to set limits around water quantity and quality. The Minister indicated that the new NPS will cover sedimentation (rural and urban), nutrient allocation and land use intensification.  

More recently, the Minister has given an insight into what the new NPS is likely to include, confirming that under the new NPS farmers can expect farming intensification to no longer be a “permitted activity”. Instead, limits on cows per hectare will be determined by the area’s nutrient levels, ensuring that farming intensification will not breach environmental limits. An economic effect analysis of this proposal is yet to take place, however the Minister has said that subsides for new technologies in farming equipment and a move toward more horticulture and cropping are options the government is considering.

Climate Change

A Zero Carbon Bill will be introduced in late 2018 setting a target for net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and establishing an independent Climate Change Commission. The Bill intends to take the politics out of reducing climate change by creating institutional arrangements. What these arrangements will look like at this point is unknown.

It is proposed that the Commission will ensure New Zealand meets the 2050 target and interim targets on reducing emissions and transitioning New Zealand to 100% renewable energy by 2035. The Commission will also focus on how best to introduce the agriculture sector into the Emissions Trading Scheme.

It is anticipated that by mid-year there will be an opportunity for consultation on the scope of this new legislation, including the definition of the net zero target and the functions, powers and duties of the Commission

Urban Development

The government is committed to developing a national urban development authority. The authority will be given special powers in relation to large development projects to ensure development is delivered with sound infrastructure, facilities and amenities. The authority will be working under the umbrella of the Urban Growth Agenda, which also addresses the need for improvements in water quality, reducing emissions and protection against climate change.

 A Bill to create the authority will be introduced this year, with opportunity provided for submissions to be made.

Resource Management Act Reforms

The Minister plans to begin a comprehensive review of the RMA later in the year pending progress being made in relation to proposed new water quality and urban development initiatives.  In the first instance, work is already underway to identify amendments made to the RMA in 2017 which need to be reversed.  Amendments being targeted include the loss of appeal rights of applicants and objectors in relation to residential activities and subdivision of land.  A more comprehensive review of the resource management system is expected to result in changes in processing of plans and a coherence between the RMA and other planning and resource legislation.


The policy priorities proposed by the Minister will have implications for a range of industry sectors, including the primary industries sector, construction and property sectors and business sectors.

We will be providing further updates during the year as developments occur in relation to these proposals, including when opportunity is provided for public consultation and submission.

Disclaimer: This is a brief summary for information purposes only and is not legal advice

Posted on Tuesday 22nd May, 2018 at 02:00 pm