Pancake Rocks
Punakaiki

Functions and powers

Functions

These functions are drawn from the Environment Act 1986 (S.16), 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.

Powers

The Commissioner has wide powers to investigate and report on any matter where, in her opinion, the environment may be, or has been, adversely affected. Parliament or any parliamentary select committee may also ask her to report on environmental matters.

The Environment Act 1986 outlines her functions and provides for powers including:

  • obtaining information
  • summoning people and examining them under oath
  • protecting sources of information and maintaining confidentiality
  • employing staff and consultants.

The Commissioner also has wide powers to report findings and make recommendations. However, she does not have the power to make any binding rulings and nor can she reverse decisions made by public authorities.

The acceptance and effectiveness of the PCE's advice depends to a large degree on the independence, integrity, and quality of the investigations undertaken by the office.