If you occupy land in New Zealand, you will need to comply with the Resource Management Act 1991 (the RMA). The RMA contains the heart of New Zealand’s environmental law and is designed to promote the sustainable management of New Zealand’s natural and physical resources.
Sustainable management involves balancing the use of resources with the need to protect the environment and to provide for the needs of future generations. To achieve these goals the RMA sets up mechanisms to control the effects that activities may have on the environment.
Regional and district councils administer resource management issues in their areas through planning and resource consent processes. Your business must comply with the rules and conditions that the councils set in their plans and resource consents. Your business must also avoid, remedy or mitigate any adverse effect its activities may have on the environment.
Effects of non-compliance
The impact of breaching the RMA can be significant. It can result in a significant fine (up to $200,000 for one breach and more for a continuing breach) or imprisonment. If the environment has been damaged, huge clean-up costs could also be involved. If you breach your obligations under the RMA you may be prevented from operating until you have set up procedures to prevent a recurrence and obtained new consents from the appropriate councils. Given these significant penalties, you should establish a compliance programme to ensure that you meet your obligations under the RMA.
Complying with your obligations under the RMA
Completing an environmental audit or assessment of your business activities should be the first step in your compliance programme. If there are any problems, the audit should reveal them. Your business will then be in a position either to amend its operations or to obtain appropriate consents for its existing operations.
Your compliance should also include training, monitoring, reviewing and planning to ensure that your business continues to comply with its obligations.