The current Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment is Mr Simon Upton. As an independent Officer of Parliament, he has broad powers to investigate environmental concerns and is wholly independent of the government of the day.
Rather than reporting to a Government Minister, the Commissioner reports to Parliament as a whole through the Speaker of the House and the Officers of Parliament Committee. This makes him independent of the government of the day.
The Commissioner’s role is unique, and quite different to the roles of government environmental agencies, such as the Ministry for the Environment, the Environmental Protection Authority, and the Department of Conservation.
All of the Commissioner's work is directed towards a single output, independent reports and advice on environmental issues, and a mission to maintain or improve the quality of the New Zealand environment.
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.
The role of Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment was set up under the Environment Act 1986, and Commissioners are appointed for a five-year term.