The current Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment is Dr Jan Wright. As an independent Officer of Parliament, she has broad powers to investigate environmental concerns and is wholly independent of the government of the day.
Rather than reporting to a Government Minister, the Commissioner reports to Parliament as a whole through the Speaker of the House and the Officers of Parliament Committee. This makes her independent of the government of the day.
The Commissioner’s role is unique, and quite different to the roles of government environmental agencies, such as the Ministry for the Environment, the Environmental Protection Authority, and the Department of Conservation.
The Commissioner investigates environmental matters of her own choosing. Supported by staff with a wide range of expertise, she carefully judges evidence gathered from many sources. Her work is known for being clear, fact-based and pragmatic.
All of the Commissioner's work is directed towards a single output, independent reports and advice on environmental issues, and a mission to maintain or improve the quality of the New Zealand environment.
Decisions to change environmental law, policy and institutional arrangements are the responsibility of Parliament, central government, and local government. Implementing these decisions, and monitoring their impact on the environment, is the responsibility of government agencies.
The role of Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment was set up under the Environment Act 1986, and Commissioners are appointed for a five-year term.