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Updated 26 February 2020 10:18am

Under the Resource Management Act 1991 (the Act), Greater Wellington Regional Council has a regulatory responsibility to monitor, gather information, and keep records. Greater Wellington is responsible for keeping a summary of all complaints received concerning alleged breaches of the Act or a plan, and information on how each complaint has been dealt with. We also regulate and check compliance with resource consents. Where there is a clear and confirmed breach of a resource consent, a regional rule or the Resource Management Act 1991, we can take enforcement action against the offenders.

Enforcement Tools

Environmental investigations have two key drivers:

  • positive environmental outcome
  • Individual and wider public deterrence

Enforcement Tools available to an officer to obtain a positive environmental outcome:

Advisory notices – these are a non-statutory means for addressing non-compliance. Their purpose is to identify the non-compliance issue and to outline the action or actions required to rectify the problem.

Advice Letters - to request compliance where minor environmental effects or poor site management has been identified

Abatement notices – formal instruction issued to require someone to do something or stop doing something, in order to comply with a resource consent, a regional plan or the Act, or to avoid, remedy or mitigate an adverse effect on the environment.  The situations where abatement notices may be issued are set out in section 322 of the Act.

Enforcement orders – issued by the Environment Court requiring someone to do something or stop doing something, to resolve an environmental effect and/or comply with regulatory requirements. Failure to comply with an enforcement order may result in further enforcement action.

Enforcement Tools available to an officer to obtain individual and wider public deterrence:

Formal Warnings – a letter directed to those responsible for the non-compliance to ensure that they are fully informed of the breaches they are responsible for, and potential consequences should a similar incident occur.

Infringement notices – issued for specified offences under the Resource Management Act 1991, and impose fines, ranging from $300 to $1000 depending on the nature of the offence.

Prosecution – when significant non-compliance has occurred. A prosecution is a criminal proceedings, is punitive and is to punish the offender and serve as a deterrent to others.

In addition, please explain letters are often used to seek a written explanation about an incident. It is also Greater Wellington’s policy to cost recover costs incurred in responding to confirmed breaches of the Act. These costs (time and materials) are sought to ensure that the actual and reasonable costs of Greater Wellington’s compliance work are shared with the responsible party undertaking the non-compliant activity, and are not borne by the ratepayer.

What we consider before taking enforcement action

The type of enforcement tool used to deal with non-compliance depends on a number of factors, including, for example:

  • The significance of environmental effects of an incident
  • The history, attitude and level of responsibility of the offender
  • The sensitivity of the receiving environment
  • The section of the Act that has been breached
  • The mitigation measures taken by the offender to remedy the environmental effects of the incident
  • The likelihood of the incident reoccuring and the potential environmental impacts of this

These types of considerations help us determine the best possible action to achieve a specific outcome. A desired outcome may be environmental remediation, mitigation of environmental effects, education, deterrence or punishment.

Enforcement Decision Group

Where enforcement recommendations for an incident involve actions being taken against a person or organisation, the decision is considered by a panel consisting of a combination of enforcement officers, team leaders and managers, depending on the significance of the incident. This ensures a consistent approach to enforcement action.

Potential consequences of a confirmed breach

Environmental incidents where a confirmed breach of a resource consent, a regional rule or the Act has occurred can result in serious criminal offences under the Act. Section 338 of the Act lists all the situations that are offences against the Act. Failure to comply with the Act can result in an infringement notice with a maximum fee of $1,000 or prosecution with a maximum fine of $600,000 for a company or $300,000 or two years imprisonment for an individual, and, if the offence in a continuing one, to a further fine not exceeding $10,000 for every day or part of a day during which the offence continues (for further information refer to section 339 of the RMA 1991).

Be sure to check what rules apply to you through our search engine for regional plans, policies and strategies.