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Functions and powers

  • Functions

    These functions are drawn from section 16 of the Environment Act 1986, and the Commissioner has wide discretion to exercise them. They include:

    • review the system of agencies and processes set up by the Government to manage the country's resources, and report to the House of Representatives

    • investigate the effectiveness of environmental planning and management by public authorities, and advise them on remedial action

    • investigate any matter where the environment may be or has been adversely affected, advise on preventative measures or remedial action, and report to the House

    • report, on a request from the House or any select committee, on any petition, Bill, or any other matter which may have a significant effect on the environment

    • inquire, on the direction of the House, into any matter that has had or may have a substantial and damaging effect on the environment

    • undertake and encourage the collection and dissemination of information about the environment

    • encourage preventive measures and remedial actions to protect the environment.

    New Zealand Legislation website – section 16 of the Environment Act 1986


    Under the Environment Act 1986, the Commissioner has strong powers to obtain information.

    The Commissioner can request information that is not publicly available from any organisation or person. If the information is not provided, the Commissioner can summon people to be examined under oath. 

    This power to obtain information comes with a duty of secrecy. The Commissioner will only disclose the information obtained if he judges it necessary for carrying out his functions.

    The Commissioner can make recommendations, but cannot require their implementation.

    New Zealand Legislation website – Environment Act 1986

Updated: 7 March 2024
    • Annual report 2023