The Commissioner may investigate any matter where the environment has been or may be adversely affected. The public are open to raise a concern in cases when they do not believe a matter has been appropriately dealt with.
However, the best place however to start is to take your enquiry to the public agency responsible. This may be a:
- regional council
- city or district council
- government ministry or department.
Raising a concern
If you have contacted the public agency responsible and are not satisfied with its response you can raise your concern with the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. A brief outline of your concern can be submitted to us by email or letter (contact details below). We will request details of your concern if the Commissioner decides to investigate further.
Whether or not an environmental investigation results from a matter of public concern is at the discretion of the Commissioner. The office is only small and though we will not be able to act on or investigate all complaints, we still take note of all concerns raised and value all community input.
If you do write to us, please keep in mind that the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment cannot:
- provide legal advice
- mediate in disputes
- make any directives to central or local government agencies.
If you consider you have been unfairly treated by a council or government agency, the Office of the Ombudsmen may also be able to help.
Raising a concern, or even notifying us of a positive local initiative, is important. Keeping us informed helps us when we look at our strategic direction, choose which investigations to do, and plan our investigations - including setting the scope and selecting case studies.
To raise a concern or tell us what's happening, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or post your letter to Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, PO Box 10-241, Wellington, or fax to 04 495 8350. Please outline your concern briefly.
Please include your name and contact details (we will not disclose these details without your permission). We will acknowledge receipt of your letter, and will contact you further if we decide to act on or investigate your complaint.
If you raise an environmental concern with us, your identity and other information can usually be kept confidential under the:
- Environment Act 1986
- Protected Disclosures Act 2000.
The Environment Act 1986
The Environment Act gives the Commissioner and his employees wide powers to gather information. They have a corresponding obligation to maintain secrecy in respect of all matters that come into their knowledge through their job, except where the information is used for purposes connected with either administering or carrying out the provisions of the Act.
In some cases, we may need to ask if you mind other organisations or public authorities knowing who you are. If you do not wish to be identified in this way you might want to notify us of this in your initial correspondence.
Sometimes, because of the type of investigation and specific questions we must ask, the organisation or public authority will be able to guess who you are. There is very little we can do about this.
If your concern is raised under the Protected Disclosures Act, then special conditions about protecting your identity will apply.
The Protected Disclosures Act 2000
For details on this Act (sometimes known as "the whistle-blowers' Act"), what can be disclosed and how to disclose it, we recommend you refer to the Protected Disclosures Act, consider obtaining legal advice, and familiarise yourself with the information and guidance available from the Office of the Ombudsmen.
New Zealand Legislation website – Protected Disclosures Act 2000
Office of the Ombudsman website – Whistle-blowing: A guide to the Protected Disclosures Act
Office of the Ombudsman website – information to help the community in its dealings with government agencies