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Our work

What we do

  • As an independent Officer of Parliament, the Commissioner’s work is guided by the Environment Act 1986, not specific outcomes set by the government of the day.

    PCE’s mission has been summarised as:

    To maintain and improve the quality of the New Zealand environment by providing robust independent advice that influences decisions.

    The Commissioner has proposed that a set of six enduring environmental outcomes that span the entire reach of government be included in the Environmental Reporting Act 2015. They would help provide consistency of reporting and government action through time, and could form the basis for reporting and reviewing environmental expenditure under the Public Finance Act 1989.

    Viewing Vote: Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment through the lens of those proposed outcomes, and taking a broad interpretation of institutions to include legislation and policy, the main environmental outcome that the office contributes to is:

    Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of institutions designed to manage human interventions in the environment.

    In providing advice to Parliament to contribute to that outcome, PCE indirectly contributes to the other five proposed enduring environmental outcomes:

    • reducing greenhouse gas emissions
    • improving the biodiversity and ecosystem functioning and resilience of Aotearoa
    • improving the land and freshwater of Aotearoa, including sustainable management of resources
    • reducing pollution and waste
    • improving the coastal and marine environment of Aotearoa, including sustainable management of resources.

    Contribution to achieving environmental outcomes


    Reports and advice (in the form of reports, submissions and letters) are the sole output class appropriated through Vote: PCE.

    As an independent Officer of Parliament, the Commissioner reports to Parliament as a whole, not to a government minister. Hence, the primary audience for PCE’s advice is members of Parliament, including ministers and opposition spokespeople.

    Other key audiences are the primary actors in the environmental management system, especially central government agencies (e.g. Ministry for the Environment, Department of Conservation, Ministry for Primary Industries, Environmental Protection Authority, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) and local government.

    The Commissioner’s remit focuses on reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of New Zealand’s current environmental management system. Based on his reviews, the Commissioner makes recommendations about ways that system can be improved to enhance environmental outcomes.

    The Commissioner currently provides six key types of advice.

    Detailed investigations on specific environmental issues

    Investigations take a deep dive into a particular topic. These typically:

    • explain how the issue affects the environment
    • examine the science and current state of knowledge on the topic
    • assess how, and how well, the issue is managed by New Zealand’s policy and regulatory system
    • make recommendations for improvement.
    Advice on legislative bills

    PCE analyses proposed legislative changes to assess how what is proposed will impact on the environment. The Commissioner may submit through the normal public process. PCE may also provide independent advice and support to relevant parliamentary select committees.

    Submissions on proposed policy changes

    PCE will sometimes comment on government policy proposals when public submissions are invited in government consultation documents. Given the large number of government consultations, the Commissioner is selective about what he submits on. Submissions are generally limited to topics PCE has investigated previously, where he can add value or where he can provide a different perspective.

    Reviews, commentaries or evaluations

    From time to time the Commissioner may choose to comment on a report or other government output (e.g. strategy, roadmap, etc.). The Environmental Reporting Act has a specific provision encouraging PCE to comment on state of the environment reports.

    Addressing selected public concerns about the environment

    PCE receives regular correspondence from the public about concerns they have for the environment. This correspondence is one channel through which the Commissioner keeps abreast of environmental issues that are emerging or being ignored. While he cannot respond to every concern, where the Commissioner judges he can help move a specific issue forward or improve the system more generally, he will investigate the matter at stake and make recommendations to the relevant government minister or agency to address it.

    Correspondence with ministers and other members of Parliament

    To help ensure PCE’s recommendations are acted on, the Commissioner regularly follows up by writing to and meeting with ministers and other members of Parliament. Correspondence with ministers is also used to raise concerns about particular environmental issues that the Commissioner has concerns about or those raised by the public.

    Major investigations are formally presented to Parliament. After presentation to the House of Representatives, they are published on PCE’s website. Some of the findings are communicated through media and select social media channels. The website also displays all the Commissioner’s formal submissions, communications and correspondence.

    Other work

    In performing the office’s functions, the Commissioner can also:

    • review the performance of environmental agencies
    • become a party to environmental litigation
    • act as an advisor to select committees
    • promote education materials about environmental issues.

    Over the Commissioner’s second term he intends to continue to explore ways to support select committees in their scrutiny of the Government. He will also consider whether the office can add value through more active engagement with legal proceedings.

    New Zealand Parliament website – Code of practice for the provision of assistance by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment

  • Read the Commissioner's reports and advice

    Find publications

Updated: 17 July 2024
    • Strategic intentions 2023–2027


    • Annual report 2023