Submission on the Natural and Built Environment Bill

We provided a submission to the Environment Committee on the Natural and Built Environment Bill.

3 February 2023

Eugenie Sage MP
Environment Committee
Parliament Buildings

Tēnā koe Ms Sage

Natural and Built Environment Bill

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Natural and Built Environment Bill (the Bill).

As you know, the Controller and Auditor-General is an independent Officer of Parliament. In that role, I am responsible for giving Parliament and the public assurance that public organisations are operating and reporting on their financial and service performance in keeping with Parliament’s intentions and public expectations. I also have a keen interest in the accountability of public organisations to Parliament and to the public. My comments on the Bill focus on these considerations.

System performance

I note the Bill introduces a range of new system performance requirements for the Government, including an evaluation framework that covers both the Natural and Built Environment and Spatial Planning Acts. The Bill requires annual and accessible reporting on the monitoring of system performance. The Government is also required to produce a system evaluation report at least every six years, which will be independently reviewed for the House of Representatives by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

Councils are also required to report annually on their costs in meeting their functions under the two Acts, which should provide greater transparency about costs of the new system.

Overall, I am supportive of the new arrangements, and in particular the requirement for the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment to independently review each system evaluation report.

Regional planning committees

The Bill also establishes regional planning committees (RPCs). An RPC must act independently of the councils in its region. It has separate legal standing from the councils for the purpose of any legal proceedings.

RPCs must provide a statement of intent and annual report to its appointing bodies (councils and Māori organisations that appoint the Māori representatives) and make these documents publicly available. There is no requirement to have an RPC Annual Report audited. The RPCs’ financial expenditure will appear in the annual reports of the relevant host council.

The information required in the statements of intent and annual reports for RPCs will be set out in regulations. This means I am not able to comment at this time on whether the requirements will be adequate. I also cannot form a view on whether the annual report should be audited. My Office would be happy to discuss these detailed requirements with the Ministry for the Environment as they are developed. You may wish to widen the scope of regulations relating to planning committees (Clause 41) to allow an audit requirement to be added if considered appropriate once the reporting requirements are developed.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide a submission on the Bill. As we do with our other submissions on Government proposals, we will publish this submission on our website in due course.

Nāku noa, nā

John Ryan
Controller and Auditor-General