Ecological Impact Assessment

Here are five articles that were highlighted by the New Zealand Association for Impact Assessment (Inc.) in the April edition of their Impact Connector newsletter.

1. The future of Ecological Impact Assessment in New Zealand

In this introductory article Dr. Judith Roper-Lindsay considers how Ecological Impact Assessment has developed in New Zealand and is practiced today. She considers some of the ecological science issues that cause tensions in the RMA decision-making framework and look at ways these might be addressed in the future.

Read the full article by Dr. Judith Roper-Lindsay, Ecologist/Director of JR-L Consulting Ltd

2. Ecological impact assessment and roading projects: thoughts from a Transport Agency project team

There are common challenges associated with undertaking ecological impact assessments relevant to all sorts of different types of projects, large and small. Challenges include:

  • availability of relevant data such as species distribution;
  • understanding of complex ecological processes, and
  • ecological assessments having to fit within project timeframes and still produce meaningful data (Treweek, 1999).

This article touches on several challenges experienced by New Zealand Transport Agency project teams when constructing new roads.

Read the full article by Carol Bannock, Senior Environmental Specialist, NZTA

3. EcIA and the Resource Management Act 

This note considers some issues around the Resource Management Act and the role of ecological impact assessment. Despite EcIA being a well-established input to both local planning processes and the consideration of proposals requiring resource consents, it is perhaps surprising that there remain several areas of uncertainty about the approach which should be adopted in any particular situation.

Mark Christensen says decisions at both local authority and Environment Court levels have tended to focus on the specific facts involved rather than assessment approaches or techniques. Because of that, for some questions which I consider to be fundamental, it is difficult to discern clear principles, guidance or direction that can be applied consistently.

Read the article by Mark Christensen, Environmental lawyer at Natural Resources Law

4. Professional practice and implementation of EcIA – issues for local authorities and biodiversity protection

Despite the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) and well-intentioned plans and strategies, the loss of habitats supporting indigenous ecosystems and species continues, mostly on private and crown owned leasehold land. In low altitude land of gentle relief in eastern New Zealand the loss is all but complete.

In Canterbury, parts of the region which were until recently relatively undeveloped (such as hill country, inland basins and margins of braided rivers) are now the target for agricultural land use intensification. This is resulting in increasing numbers of threatened ecosystems and species, declining water quality, loss of amenity, growing public unrest etc.

This article says there are concerns that some of this loss is caused through activities for which a resource consent was required, and an Ecological Impact Assessment was carried out. The authors question the content and quality of those EcIAs.

Read the article by Nicholas Head, Senior Ecologist Christchurch City Council & Philip Grove, Senior Ecologist Environment Canterbury.

5. Issues for EcIA in the marine environment in New Zealand

Assessments of ecological effects on the marine environment in New Zealand can be challenging due to a number of factors:

  • an overlapping and convoluted legislative framework,
  • the complex nature of marine habitats,
  • a lack of data,
  • the spatial scales and interconnectedness of marine areas; and
  • a lack of guidelines for impact assessment.

This article outline ways in which some of these factors affect the reliability of descriptions and impact assessments, and consider how these might influence the quality of resource management in the marine area.

Read the article by Sharon de Luca, Associate Partner / Marine Ecologist, Boffa Miskell Ltd