A new Natural Environment Act is Needed - Now


  • Geoffrey Palmer Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington
  • Richard Clarke




Resource Management Act replacement, natural environment, natural environment principles, Guardians of the Environment


This article advocates a new mindset to protect the natural environment following repeal of the Resource Management Act (RMA). The proposed new legislation will be insufficient to protect the natural environment, which has deteriorated during the life of the RMA and now requires urgent action. A new Natural Environment Act is needed that focuses on the natural environment and embraces principles that governmental decision makers are obliged to follow. Limits must be laid down. The principles must be simple and clear and based on the many international law instruments negotiated since the Stockholm Declaration in 1972. New systems of monitoring and enforcement must be devised, with a new environmental watchdog with substantial powers.


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Author Biographies

Geoffrey Palmer, Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC is a former minister for the environment and prime minister. He is a global affiliated professor at the University of Iowa and a distinguished fellow at the Faculty of Law at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington.


Richard Clarke

Richard Clarke QC specialised in public law, commercial law and law drafting during his legal career.

The authors were centrally involved in the development of the Resource Management Bill in the late 1980s and 1990: Palmer was the minister responsible for the Bill and Clarke was involved with its drafting. The proposals in this article originate from work undertaken by the authors under a now completed contract with the Ministry for the Environment. The proposals are the authors’ own, and the ministry does not currently hold any view on them.