Because the functions of the Commissioner are broad, and there are many environmental issues worthy of investigation, prioritisation of projects is key to strategic planning. Equally, issues of compelling concern can arise without much notice. Subject to such contingencies, a number of future areas of work are under consideration.
Despite twenty-five years elapsing since the passage of the Resource Management Act 1991, an almost perpetual stream of amendments, and ongoing debate about its relationship with a number of other governance and infrastructure-related statutes, suggests that spatial issues, particularly in an urban context, will continue to be the subject of lively debate.
Assessing how New Zealand adapts to climate change is likely to remain a priority area for the office, particularly in relation to climate impacts. Water and land management remains one of New Zealand’s greatest environmental challenges. There is potential to look more closely at the relationship between sedimentation of waterways and soil loss. The loss of elite soils is also of interest.
Biosecurity is vitally important to New Zealand’s precious and vulnerable indigenous flora and fauna, as well as its primary industries. The recent outbreak of myrtle rust underscores the need for effective measures to combat the risks to our ecological heritage and our agricultural economy.
In New Zealand, waste has had a relatively low profile compared to other environmental issues. A lack of good data has not improved this situation. A number of waste streams appear to have limited coverage within the current regulatory regime, while the lack of mandatory tracking of hazardous and liquid wastes in New Zealand has drawn criticism. Meanwhile, public awareness of the environmental impacts of waste, especially plastics, continues to rise.
The efficient and effective performance of environmental agencies and decision-making systems is of perennial importance in securing good environmental outcomes. While these are analysed to some extent in most reports and advice provided by the Commissioner, dedicated reviews of central and local government machinery will be considered from time to time.