Gayle Holmes

Gayle Homes, General Manager of Compliance, Monitoring and Enforcement standing on Wellington's waterfront

Gayle Homes, General Manager of Compliance, Monitoring and Enforcement standing on Wellington's waterfront

"The work of our strengthened Compliance, Monitoring, and Enforcement function drives delivery of our third strategic goal: protecting people and the environment. Our work involves compliance, monitoring, and enforcement activities in relation to hazardous substances, ozone-depleting substances, the EEZ and the Register."

As part of that work we:

  • ensure our regulated parties and stakeholders know and understand their obligations
  • apply powers to act and intervene when rules are broken
  • ensure the natural resources of New Zealand’s EEZ and continental shelf are sustainably managed.

Providing greater support to councils

The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) is the main piece of legislation that sets out how New Zealand should manage our environment, and considers effects of activities on the environment now and in the future when making resource management decisions. Most decisions on resource management are made by councils. Over the year, we have been building our capability and engaging with councils in readiness for new enforcement powers which were granted to us in June 2020. It means that from now on we can provide extra support when local councils undertake enforcement action in their local areas. Support can include:

  • interviewing witnesses in relation to an incident
  • peer review of investigation files
  • local enforcement decision making.

In 2019/20, the EPA supported the following council compliance, monitoring, and enforcement activities:

  • inspections of dairy effluent systems, earthworks and coal mining for three councils
  • investigating waste deposited at a landfill
  • reviewing investigation case files and enforcement recommendations for three regulators.

Improving compliance with the Emissions Trading Scheme

This year, our ETS compliance team focused on the oil and gas sector, identifying common issues, with the aim of encouraging and improving compliance. Six inspections identified insufficient gas sampling, meters used for monitoring emissions not being fit for purpose, errors in participant spreadsheet calculation, and insufficient calibration of meters used to measure gas.

There were also issues identified through four desktop reviews. These included measurements of venting emissions that were not in accordance with regulations, and incorrect joint-venture share information in the submission of returns.

Reports to participants on the findings are being drafted and once finalised, any non-compliance will be investigated. In the past year, in relation to the ETS, we have:

  • issued five penalties for non-compliance totalling $107,200.20
  • processed 26 annual emissions return amendments, and 11 quarterly emissions return amendments
  • completed two default assessments, seven participants defaulted (default assessments are made where participants fail to submit a return on time)
  • processed 34 quarterly emissions returns
  • completed 63 annual emission returns variance checks (variance checks are triggered by a more than 20 percent increase or decrease in emissions)
  • processed two Industrial Allocation Amendments
  • engaged with ETS participants affected by changes as part of regulation updates, and changes proposed in the Climate Change Response Act (Emissions Trading Reform) Amendment Bill.

Improving compliance in the Exclusive Economic Zone

As part of our compliance, monitoring, and enforcement work in the EEZ we achieved:

  • 11 investigations into incidents and potential non-compliance undertaken
  • 2 warning letters for non-compliance issued
  • 7 oil record-books assessed, plus two dredge reports, one produced-water discharge report and one benthic monitoring plan
  • 17 marine consents, plus four rulings, five emergency spill response plans, and 21 permitted activities monitored. Our monitoring and inspections did not identify any significant adverse events in the EEZ
  • 24 non-compliance investigations conducted over the period and 22 of those completed
  • 17 advisory letters and four warning letters issued.

Certain activities, such as marine scientific research, exploration and prospecting, are permitted activities under the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012 (EEZ Act), but they are nevertheless subject to rules and conditions that the EPA monitors for compliance. We processed 21 permitted activity projects.

We issued seven abatement notices to oil and gas operators of the Tui field, relating to an unauthorised discharge of harmful substances and disconnection of subsea assets from a floating production storage and offloading vessel.

We changed the way we conduct compliance inspections to a proactive regulatory compliance approach. We now identify and investigate any instances of non-compliance, and follow up to ensure they are corrected. In July 2019, we delivered a workshop on this new approach to oil and gas operators and other regulators including WorkSafe New Zealand, Maritime New Zealand, and Taranaki Regional Council.

We contributed to other business processes and development including:

  • development and implementation of the all-of-government Model Standards for Information Gathering
  • identifying requirements for a compliance, monitoring, and enforcement data management system.

During the year, we also provided compliance advice on numerous marine consent applications, we developed and implemented a dynamic health and safety risk training course for field staff, and we continued to support local and central government regulators and industry forums.

Improving compliance with hazardous substances, ozone-depleting substances and hazardous waste

As part of our compliance, monitoring, and enforcement work under hazardous substances and new organisms legislation we:

  • audited three Public Health Units and completed a desktop audit in relation to the processes that support delegations
  • delivered two presentations at a Public Health Unit’s training course on our role under the Hazardous Substances New Organisms Act 1996 (HSNO Act) and our findings of auditing three Public Health Units. We presented at a workshop held by Countdown and their importers to facilitate greater understanding in the HSNO compliance system. We also presented on the role of our team at the Environmental Compliance Conference in Christchurch
  • reviewed 42 aerial 1080 post operation reports and made enquiries or investigations into 52 reports of potential non-compliance
  • conducted and concluded an investigation of alleged 1080 misapplication resulting in a warning letter and advisory letter to the relevant parties
  • published the Annual Report on 1080 use in Aotearoa New Zealand 2018 on 17 December 2019
  • conducted six facilities inspections related to the non-compliant storage or use of fire-fighting foams
  • carried out desktop monitoring of two compliance orders issued as a result of non-compliant storage or use of fire-fighting foams
  • conducted 13 investigations under the Ozone Layer Protection Act 1996 (OLPA)
  • issued a compliance order to an agrichemical company in relation to containment approvals
  • engaged with aquatic herbicides permission holders and reviewed annual report submissions and monitoring plans
  • reviewed 759 notifications from parties we regulate, including Fireworks Certificates, LPG plaques and import/manufacturer registration details
  • received 498 incident reports from Fire and Emergency New Zealand, Police and other agencies
  • sent 23 letters to educate importers and suppliers of cosmetic products reminding them of their obligations under the HSNO Act.