Sustainability - New Zealand's Resource Management Legislation

Monique Ross and J. Owen Saunders 'Growing Demands on a Shrinking Heritage: Managing Resource-Use Conflicts', 1992

Victoria University of Wellington Legal Research Paper Series Palmer Paper No. 43

12 Pages Posted: 27 Feb 2013 Last revised: 24 Feb 2015

See all articles by Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC

Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC

Victoria University of Wellington - Faculty of Law

Date Written: 1992

Abstract

The World Commission on Environment and Development in its 1987 report provided a new analysis of the world’s resource and environmental problems that linked two key ideas: economic growth and sustainability. The report did not predict increasing decay, poverty, and environmental degradation. It saw instead the possibility for a new era of economic growth, based on sustainability and environmentalism. That vision is highly attractive politically, even if the contradictions are not fully resolved in the document. Growth in the world’s population is a serious problem. It cannot be sustained by the existing environmental resources. In developing the idea of sustainability the Commission asserted that all countries and all types of economies will need to form a consensus on the basic concept of sustainable development, and on a broad strategic framework for achieving it.

Remaking the law of any state to conform to the idea of sustainable development is an enormous undertaking. Just what is involved and how difficult it is can be understood from examining the recent New Zealand experience. There may be some lessons in it for others, many of which will not emerge until the new legislation is up and running, but the policy formation in New Zealand was itself fascinating and is worthy of study for its own sake. This paper aims to give an explanation and overview of that legislation and its relationship to the concept of sustainability.

The paper tracks the development of New Zealand resource management legislation from the National Development Bill designed to aid the 1970s Think Big projects, to the privatization of the Ministry of Works and Development and the subdividing of that Ministry’s functions to the Ministry for the Environment, the project of Resource Management Law Reform, and the Resource Management Act legislation created as an outcome of that project. It discusses some of the more contentious areas of that legislation as well as its purposes and principles, including its commitment to Treaty of Waitangi principles.

Keywords: sustainable development, resource management, Resource Management Act, Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand environment, environment law

JEL Classification: K32

Suggested Citation

Palmer QC, Sir Geoffrey, Sustainability - New Zealand's Resource Management Legislation (1992). Monique Ross and J. Owen Saunders 'Growing Demands on a Shrinking Heritage: Managing Resource-Use Conflicts', 1992; Victoria University of Wellington Legal Research Paper Series Palmer Paper No. 43. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2225581

Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC (Contact Author)

Victoria University of Wellington - Faculty of Law ( email )

PO Box 600
Wellington, 6140
New Zealand

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