What we do
The core work of the office is to provide advice to decision makers that maintains or improves the quality of the environment. Reports and advice drawn from environmental investigations form the backbone of the work programme, along with submissions on proposed law changes and government agency policy proposals.
Reports on investigations
Investigations arise in a variety of ways. They may be raised by Members of Parliament, prompted by letters from the public or flow from issues uncovered in earlier investigations. Investigations result in a report tabled in Parliament.
Reports may contain recommendations to Ministers or be purely informative. The Commissioner and his staff work hard to ensure the reports are accurate and that any recommendations are both practical and likely to be effective.
Advice to Parliament
The Commissioner's assistance to Parliament is his highest work priority and is governed by a code of practice developed through the Officers of Parliament Committee.
An opportunity to assist select committees arises when a bill or inquiry could lead to significant environmental impacts, positive or negative.
The Commissioner also assists Parliament through briefings to select committees or by open invitation to members of Parliament. Such briefings will always be offered when an investigation is complete and the report has been tabled in the House.
Submissions to select committees
The Commissioner provides submissions to select committees on bills, inquiries or petitions. Submissions are sometimes made on policy proposals, such as proposed changes to the Resource Management Act.
All of our work contributes to the Commissioner’s stated aim to maintain or improve our environment by influencing decision makers through robust, independent advice.
The acceptance and effectiveness of the Commissioner's advice depends to a large degree on the independence, integrity and quality of the investigations undertaken by the office.
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.
In 2014 the Commissioner was given a new function: writing commentaries on state of the environment reports produced by the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand (now Stats NZ).
In addition to producing independent reports and advice to Members of Parliament, the Commissioner presents his work to the public and responds to public concerns as resources allow.