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New Zealand’s Specialist
Project Lawyers

There is a marked difference

in the way Greenwood Roche operates. From the outset we have focused on clearly defined specialist areas, retaining highly respected legal experts in each field. We then take that further; ensuring clients have direct and regular access to the most senior partners and lawyers, in a cost efficient manner.

Close contact with experts and clear cost advantages

We advise on a range of significant public and private sector projects. To ensure our specialists are always where they’re needed, we operate as one office with hubs in Auckland, Wellington & Christchurch.

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Recent Projects

Projects

One Billion Trees Programme

Greenwood Roche is assisting the Crown in the preparation and registration of Forestry...

One Billion Trees Programme

Recent Projects

One Billion Trees Programme

One Billion Trees Programme

Greenwood Roche is assisting the Crown in the preparation and registration of Forestry Rights as part of the One Billion Trees Programme developed by the Government.


The Government has set a goal to plant one billion trees by 2028.  Progress towards achieving this target is well underway. 

The One Billion Trees Programme supports New Zealand’s commitment to mitigating the effects of climate change.  By absorbing carbon dioxide, tree planting reduces the impact of greenhouse gases.  As well as addressing the impacts of climate change, the Programme aims to create increased sustainable regional development, increased employment, optimise land use, support Māori values and aspirations, protect the environment and support New Zealand’s transition to a low emissions economy. 

The programme involves the planting of both permanent trees and plantation forests.  The Crown estimates that commercial foresters will plant 500 million trees by 2028.  The Crown is issuing direct landowner grants and entering into partnership projects to help plant the other 500 million trees.  For example, funding will be allocated to research and workforce initiatives.  To help achieve the target, Crown Forestry is also entering into joint ventures and forestry rights to plant commercial forestry on privately owned land.

Greenwood Roche is involved with the preparation and registration of Forestry Rights over privately owned land.  As at the end of November 2019, the Crown has entered into over 40 Forestry Rights covering over 20,000 hectares with more being negotiated and finalised.  Under the Forestry Rights, the Crown plants, manages and harvests trees on the land and pays an annual rental to the landowner.  An estimated 18,443,000 trees will be planted over the next two years under the Forestry Rights signed to date.


Key lawyers involved

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Ōtākaro Limited – East Frame (Pūtahi Whakaterāwhiti)

Greenwood Roche has assisted in the subdivision and transfer of Christchurch’s...

Ōtākaro Limited – East Frame (Pūtahi Whakaterāwhiti)

Recent Projects

Ōtākaro Limited – East Frame (Pūtahi Whakaterāwhiti)

Ōtākaro Limited – East Frame (Pūtahi Whakaterāwhiti)

Greenwood Roche has assisted in the subdivision and transfer of Christchurch’s largest and most central residential development – the East Frame.


Following the Christchurch earthquakes, land was compulsorily acquired by the Crown which gave us the unique opportunity of creating a vibrant, functional and liveable city.  The “East Frame” is an anchor project comprising a 14 hectare residential area located at the east of the Christchurch central business district.  Half of the East Frame development consists of medium density residential living for approximately 2,000 people.  The remainder comprises streets, open spaces and paved areas.  The East Frame holds the third largest open space in central Christchurch - Rauora Park.  
 
Greenwood Roche has assisted Ōtākaro Limited with the subdivision, transfer and other property related aspects of the East Frame including Rauora Park.


Specialist expertise

Key lawyers involved

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New Gas Transmission Access Code

Brigid McArthur and Will Hulme-Moir have recently acted as independent counsel to...

New Gas Transmission Access Code

Recent Projects

New Gas Transmission Access Code

New Gas Transmission Access Code

Brigid McArthur and Will Hulme-Moir have recently acted as independent counsel to the gas industry co-regulator, Gas Industry Company Limited, on approval of a new Gas Transmission Access Code.


The GTAC governs the terms of access to the high pressure North Island gas transmission pipeline systems owned by First Gas Limited, previously known as the Vector and Maui pipelines.  Access to these pipelines has since the early 2000s been governed by separate industry codes.  This separation has created operational inefficiencies particularly around capacity reservations, offtake management, gas balancing, reconciliation and liability for non‑specification gas, amongst others.  With the pipelines now under common ownership has come the opportunity for a rationalisation and reset in accordance with the Gas Act objectives.

Gas Industry Co’s sanction of the new GTAC as “materially better” than the existing codes, comes after a lengthy period of engagement, consultation and extensive debate between different sectoral levels.  The industry is presently engaged in IT systems and implementation processes.


Specialist expertise

Key lawyers involved

Similar projects
Tariki, Waihapa, Ngaere petroleum production assets and infrastructure

Recent Projects

Tariki, Waihapa, Ngaere petroleum production assets and infrastructure

Tariki, Waihapa, Ngaere petroleum production assets and infrastructure

Greenwood Roche advised L&M Energy on its acquisition of a 50% stake in the Waihapa Production Station and related petroleum producing and infrastructure assets. This was a joint acquisition with New Zealand Energy Corp.


Specialist expertise

Key lawyers involved

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Construction begins on new $40 million dollar Invercargill hotel

Lauren Semple and Sam Hutchings recently assisted the Invercargill Licencing Trust...

Construction begins on new $40 million dollar Invercargill hotel

Recent Projects

Construction begins on new $40 million dollar Invercargill hotel

Construction begins on new $40 million dollar Invercargill hotel

Lauren Semple and Sam Hutchings recently assisted the Invercargill Licencing Trust in obtaining resource consent to construct a new 8 level, four and half star hotel on the corner of Dee and Don Streets in the heart of Invercargill City. The demolition and construction process now underway.


The new building has been designed by Warren and Mahoney and is a nod to the historic built fabric of the area, while providing for a new iconic and forward looking landmark to invite residents and visitors in to the inner city.

Along with 80 guest suites, the development includes a restaurant, café, bars and a function room to create a thriving space for both guests and local residents alike to assist in the on-going rejuvenation of Invercargill, helping to achieve a key purpose of the Southland Regional Development Strategy.

Given the historic nature of the inner city, a key element of the project was ensuring that the overall heritage values of the previous corner building on the site were retained in the wider Invercargill. This was achieved through volunteered resource consent conditions, including the establishment of a public heritage fund to assist with the upkeep of other Invercargill heritage buildings. Also included was a condition that the new hotel name pays homage to the history of the site. A public competition is now underway to choose a name that reflects the heritage of the area. Entries can be made by emailing newhotel@ilt.co.nz or submitting entries via the Invercargill Licencing Trust facebook page.

 


Specialist expertise

Key lawyers involved

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Central Interceptor Tunnel Project

Greenwood Roche is assisting Watercare with this significant project designed to...

Recent Projects


Central Interceptor Tunnel Project

Greenwood Roche is assisting Watercare with this significant project designed to ensure there is sufficient capacity in Watercare’s wastewater network to meet planned population growth and development in Auckland and prevent overflows into the waterways and harbours.


The Central Interceptor is a wastewater tunnel that will run between Western Springs and the Mangere Wastewater Treatment Plant. The tunnel will run underground for 13 kilometres and will be at a depth of between 22 and 110 metres.  Along the route it will connect to Watercare's existing wastewater network, which will divert flows and overflows into the tunnel.

Hadleigh Yonge is leading Greenwood Roche’s team which is advising Watercare on various aspects of this project, including providing strategic advice, negotiating and acquiring property rights, and advising on and dealing with issues relating to compensation.


Specialist expertise

Key lawyers involved

Similar projects
Electricity upgrades

Recent Projects

Electricity upgrades

Electricity upgrades

The national electricity grid is owned by the State-owned enterprise, Transpower New Zealand, with lower voltage distribution lines owned by a range of locally and publicly owned entities.


Greenwood Roche advises Transpower on all property aspects relating to the national grid including the new 400kV-capable transmission line between Whakamaru, in south Waikato, and Auckland.


Specialist expertise

Key lawyers involved

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Major new transmission line

Recent Projects


Major new transmission line

Transpower is currently constructing the new 220kV transmission line connecting Wairakei and Whakamaru, assisting with the development of renewable electricity generation around Taupo.


Greenwood Roche has acted for Transpower on the acquisition of property rights for this project. Our work has included the acquisition of easements, Maori land issues, advice on compulsory acquisition rights, emissions trading issues and compensation entitlements.


Specialist expertise

Key lawyers involved

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Northern Interceptor and North Harbour No. 2 Pipeline Projects

Recent Projects


Northern Interceptor and North Harbour No. 2 Pipeline Projects

Greenwood Roche is assisting Watercare with these two strategic pipeline projects designed to enable Watercare to keep up with the proposed growth in the northwest of Auckland.


These two projects are estimated to cost Watercare $800 million. The Northern Interceptor wastewater project will be constructed in various stages with construction to begin soon on stage one to service the growth areas in Massey North, Whenuapai, Hobsonville, Kumeu, Huapai and Riverhead. The North Harbour No.2 watermain will service the new Albany reservoir and will replace the existing watermain which cannot be maintained without disrupting local water supplies.

Hadleigh Yonge is leading Greenwood Roche’s team which is advising Watercare on all aspects of these projects, including providing strategic advice, negotiating and acquiring property rights, and advising and dealing with issues relating to compensation.


Specialist expertise

Key lawyers involved

Similar projects
Watercare’s North Shore Trunk Sewer 8

Recent Projects


Watercare’s North Shore Trunk Sewer 8

Watercare Services Limited is responsible for providing water and wastewater services to the greater Auckland region and is undertaking a number of projects to increase its infrastructure network.


Greenwood Roche is advising Watercare on the construction of a significant new wastewater pipeline in the Northcote area. The project affects a number of properties including private and various forms of public land.  Our work has included the acquisition of property rights to enter and construct the works, and issues relating to compensation.


Specialist expertise

Key lawyers involved

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Waipa Networks’ new transmission line

Recent Projects


Waipa Networks’ new transmission line

Waipa Networks has identified the need to construct a new 110kV transmission line to increase the security and reliability of electricity supply to Te Awamutu and the surrounding areas.


We are advising Waipa Networks on this project. Our work has included strategic advice, acquisition of land property rights, Maori land issues, and advice on compulsory acquisition rights and compensation entitlements.


Specialist expertise

Key lawyers involved

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Watercare’s North Shore Trunk Sewer 8 Waipa Networks’ new transmission line

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Otakaro - Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre

Te Pae, meaning “a gathering place” in te reo Maori, is a highly anticipated...

Recent Projects


Otakaro - Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre

Te Pae, meaning “a gathering place” in te reo Maori, is a highly anticipated anchor project being developed by Otakaro.  It will be a world class convention and exhibition facility neighbouring Cathedral Square in the heart of Christchurch.


Greenwood Roche has assisted Otakaro with various property aspects relating to the Convention Centre.


Specialist expertise

Key lawyers involved

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Environmentally-friendly transport initiatives in Christchurch

Greenwood Roche assisted Christchurch City Council in launching and supporting the...

Environmentally-friendly transport initiatives in Christchurch

Recent Projects

Environmentally-friendly transport initiatives in Christchurch

Environmentally-friendly transport initiatives in Christchurch

Greenwood Roche assisted Christchurch City Council in launching and supporting the city’s recent environmentally-friendly transport initiatives intended to support sustainable multi-modal journeys, and complement and enhance the region’s existing public transport network. 


The initiatives comprise the introduction of the shared electric car fleet with Yoogo, a proposed public bike share system, and Lime’s e-scooters.

Christchurch City Council has partnered with a range of leading public and private sector organisations with a view to promoting the physical health of its residents, reducing the negative impacts that traditional transport options have on the environment, and reducing the number of cars on Christchurch roads.

Greenwood Roche’s team, led by James Riddoch, worked with Christchurch City Council to prepare the legal framework to support these projects, including advising Council on procurement matters, negotiating the commercial terms with the suppliers, and advising Council in relation to the required permits to allow these businesses to operate in the city.


Specialist expertise

Key lawyers involved

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The development of the Redhills area

Greenwood Roche is assisting Watercare deliver an improved wastewater network to...

Recent Projects

The development of the Redhills area

The development of the Redhills area

Greenwood Roche is assisting Watercare deliver an improved wastewater network to enable the development of the Redhills area.


Watercare is working with various interested parties to deliver improved wastewater services to enable the Redhills area to be extensively developed with the introduction of close to 10,000 residential properties.

Hadleigh Yonge is leading Greenwood Roche’s team which is advising Watercare on aspects of this project, including providing strategic advice, negotiating and acquiring property rights, and advising on and negotiating infrastructure funding agreements.


Specialist expertise

Key lawyers involved

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News & Insights

Insights

Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities in Mount Cook, Wellington

...

News & Insights

Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities in Mount Cook, Wellington

Lauren Semple and Rachel Murdoch have recently secured resource consent to re-develop an existing complex for Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities in Mount Cook, Wellington.


The new development will replace the original structures that were built in the 1950’s, with four new fit-for-purpose buildings that will provide long-stay accommodation for up to 218 social housing tenants.
 
Twenty of the units are to be reserved to accommodate residents receiving support through the Housing First programme. This is a government-led programme to house and support people who have been homeless for a long time, or are homeless and face multiple and complex issues. The development will also include a community space, a residents support space and on-site staff.
 
This re-development comes as part of a nationwide $5.6 billon build programme being undertaken by Kāinga Ora to address the housing shortages across New Zealand, but particularly in the biggest urban centres where those shortages are most acute.


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Feedback sought on Hagley Oval proposal

The Associate Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration has recently accepted the...

Feedback sought on Hagley Oval proposal

News & Insights

Feedback sought on Hagley Oval proposal

Feedback sought on Hagley Oval proposal

The Associate Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration has recently accepted the proposal for Hagley Oval developed by Regenerate Christchurch on behalf of the Canterbury Cricket Trust. The Minister is now seeking public feedback on the proposal.


Canterbury Cricket Trust have advised Hagley Oval’s current resource consent conditions make it costly and difficult for Hagley Oval to host large international fixtures, in particular day-night matches that are now required by top-tier teams. As a result, Hagley Oval is less competitive when bidding for games compared to its rival cricket grounds.  With the Women’s Cricket World Cup approaching in 2021, the changes in the proposal will need to be approved by the Minister in order for Christchurch City to be able to bid for and host top-tier games. Bids for the upcoming Woman’s Cricket Work Cup close on 20 December 2019.

The proposal provided to the Minister seeks to amend the Christchurch District Plan through section 71 of the Greater Christchurch Regeneration Act 2016 (GCR Act). The proposal seeks to incorporate the current resource consent conditions into the Plan and to amend certain aspects of those conditions, including:

  • Amending the current condition to increase the four, retractable light towers to allow six permanent light towers to meet international broadcast standards.
  • Allow more lenient pack in and out timeframes for temporary facilities associated with hosting cricket matches; to improve health and safety and limit damage to the Oval grounds.
  • Increasing the number of fixtures allowed per season, including an allowance for hosting International Cricket Council events on years that they occur.
Given the time constraints and the regeneration benefits for Christchurch through hosting top-tier games at the World Cup, (along with future international cricket matches) Regenerate Christchurch considered the proposal met the requirements to utilise the provisions under the GCR Act.

Regenerate Christchurch engaged with the strategic partners while drafting the proposal, including Christchurch City Council, Ngai Tahu, Selwyn District Council, Waimakariri District Council, Environment Canterbury and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. As a result of this engagement, the proposal incorporated the feedback received from these strategic partners.

The public now has the chance to have its say, with public submissions due to close at 5.00pm on Wednesday 20 November 2019.

The proposal can be viewed and submissions made at the following link: http://www.dpmc.govt.nz/hagley-oval

Following the close of submissions, the Minister must take into account the public feedback, along with the feedback from strategic partners to decide within 30 working days whether to approve or decline the proposal.

Hagley Oval Lease

As Hagley Oval sits within Hagley Park and is subject to the Hagley Park Management Plan, Christchurch City Council require a lease to be granted to the Canterbury Cricket Trust for the ground in which the proposed permanent light towers will stand on. This is a separate process to the one being run by the Minister under the GCR Act. The Christchurch City Council is seeking feedback on the proposed lease until the 18 November 2019. The link to the relevant documents and submission process can be found here: https://www.ccc.govt.nz/the-council/consultations-and-submissions/haveyoursay/show/273


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Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor Regeneration Plan Approved

On Friday 23 August, the Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration announced her...

News & Insights

Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor Regeneration Plan Approved

On Friday 23 August, the Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration announced her approval of the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor Regeneration Plan.  The Plan was developed by Regenerate Christchurch under the Greater Christchurch Regeneration Act 2016.  It outlines the vision and objectives for the future of the 600ha Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor (the former residential red zone), and directs the inclusion of an accompanying planning framework to enable the realisation of that Vision. 


This area is significant in many ways for Christchurch/Otautahi.  It has been and continues to be an area comprising sites and geographical features of cultural importance to Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and Te Ngāi Tūāhuriri Rūnanga.  The area also comprises various other sites of historical significance to Christchurch/Ōtautahi and is traversed by the Ōtākaro Avon River which is itself a key feature of the city’s identity and urban framework. In developing this Plan Regenerate Christchurch has therefore sought to acknowledge the significance of this area to the wider Christchurch/Ōtautahi community, as well as working with the environmental constraints and opportunities that it provides.  
 
The process has taken time and has not been without its challenges – the size and geographical constraints of the area, the various interests and feedback from stakeholders, community groups and members of the public, and the uncertainties particularly around future implementation have all been matters to carefully consider and address.  The Plan’s vision and objectives and the accompanying framework for the Area are broad.  While they have strong focus areas (including ecology, recreation, economic opportunity and community connection), they also seek to recognise that the regeneration of this Area will take time, and that new ideas, new technology and new activities which are not currently contemplated should be allowed to take place.  The vision and objectives therefore operate as a touchstone against which future decisions can be made – ensuring a clear aspiration for the area while still allowing flexibility to adjust to a changing future. 
 
The approval of the Plan by the Minister (and the Ombudsman’s recent finding as to its legal and evidential rigour) is a significant endorsement of the work done by the Regenerate Christchurch team on this project.   Greenwood Roche lawyers, Lauren Semple and Rachel Murdoch have been privileged to advise Regenerate Christchurch on the development of this Plan, the exercise of its powers under the Act in respect of this and other projects, and its general regeneration mandate.  It is extremely satisfying to see the Plan become operative and attention now turn to its implementation.


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The Emissions Trading Scheme – time for an update

New Zealand takes its place on the global stage with its efforts to combat the effects...

News & Insights

The Emissions Trading Scheme – time for an update

New Zealand takes its place on the global stage with its efforts to combat the effects of climate change.  The Emissions Trading Scheme is at the centre of these efforts.  Improvements to the Emissions Trading Scheme were announced on 31 July 2019. 


Climate change is arguably one of the most pressing threats to the planet.  According to the United Nations, climate change “is the defining issue of our time and we are at a defining moment”. 
 
The Kyoto Protocol requires its members to monitor their actual greenhouse gas emissions and precise records of trades have to be kept.  It has set the framework for numerous policy, legislative and environmental initiatives.  New Zealand has the unique opportunity of playing its part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions through forestry.  Forestry exports are worth around $5 billion a year and forestry directly employs approximately 20,000 people.  It is a crucial part of our climate change response.
 
With that in mind, it is imperative that New Zealand implement a sufficient, robust and effective Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).  On 31 July 2019, improvements to the ETS regulations were announced to reach that goal.  An Amendment Bill to the Climate Change Response Act 2002 will be introduced to Parliament later this year.  Four changes in this Amendment Bill are worth noting:
 

  1. the introduction of “averaging accounting” for foresters;
  2. the reduction of free allocation to major industrial emitters;
  3. the cancellation and replacement of units from the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol; and
  4. the introduction of a “stand down period”.
 
Averaging Accounting
 
The original carbon stock accounting provides that foresters must surrender their ETS units at deforestation (even if forestry is planted elsewhere).  Now, averaging accounting provides that a forest owner will not surrender its emissions units provided the deforested land is replanted (regardless of its location).  Given new forestry can be planted in a different location, farm land can be converted to other uses.  Foresters are given more flexibility.  Under the new regime, the ETS units accumulate as the forest grows up to a determined average level of long term carbon storage.
 
Previous accounting measures required foresters to repay their emissions units in the event of a natural disaster.  The latest changes to the ETS remove the obligation to repay provided replanting is done within 4 years. 
 
Averaging accounting will be optional for forests registered under the ETS from 2019 and will be mandatory for forests registered from 2021 onwards.  It will not apply to forests registered under the ETS prior to 2019.
 
Industrial Allocation
 
There are currently 26 industrial activities within New Zealand that are eligible to receive free industrial allocation.  This allocation reduces their expenses under the ETS which provides an incentive for businesses not to go offshore.  These activities are estimated to be responsible for up to 14 percent of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions.  From 2021, changes to the ETS will phase down the industrial allocation.  During the time period of 2021-2030, industrial allocation will be reduced at 1 percent per year.  The reduction will then increase to 2 percent from 2030-2041 and increase again to 3 percent from 2041-2050.
 
Industrial businesses will be encouraged to invest in clean energy alternatives that reduce emissions.  The Government has said it will review rates from 2031.
 
Cancellation and Replacement of Units  
 
There are currently privately held units issued from the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period (2008-2012).  The ETS now require these units to be cancelled and replaced with an equivalent number of New Zealand units.  Currently, a host country and the country buying the units could both claim a credit for the emission reductions.  Cancelling these units avoids double-counting.  The units will be cancelled on 30 November 2020.
 
Stand Down Period
 
Previously, forests planted after 1989 outside of the ETS (and some inside the ETS) could deforest and not be liable under the ETS.  If replanted, these forests would earn more units under the ETS and would therefore achieve a windfall.  This should be avoided since there is technically no increased benefit as the number of trees planted has not changed.
 
Changes to the ETS now create a “stand down period”.  If the described land is deforested, the land cannot be replanted (and joined to the ETS) for a period of time. 
 
Commentary
 
The above recent changes to the ETS are aimed at more effectively capturing the purpose of the ETS.  The introduction of the stand down period and removal of industrial allocations create a more universally comprehensive scheme.  However, major industrial emitters will continue to point to the wider economic and fiscal implications of their becoming fully subject to the scheme (and lack of any net environmental benefit in a global context).  The issues here are indeed vexed.
 
The new averaging accounting regime favours foresters.  It improves the ETS’s flexibility and creates a more appealing system.  Forestry land can be replanted in different locations and foresters are also more adequately protected from natural disasters.  Encouragement to plant forestry must be met with a realistic scheme that recognises farming and forestry are not static or predictable.  Rotating land use enables farmers and foresters to productively work their land without ETS liabilities arising.  There are currently concerns over productive farm land being turned into forestry permanently.  It is arguable that workable farm land could be lost, reducing New Zealand’s agricultural industry.  The ability to convert forestry land back to farm or cropping land (with forestry planted elsewhere) helps address these concerns. 
 
Having an effective ETS helps New Zealand to more accurately monitor and work towards reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. These new changes take us one step further to reaching that goal.


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Chief Ombudsman releases final opinion on East Lake Trust/Regenerate Christchurch case

Greenwood Roche lawyers, Lauren Semple and Rachel Murdoch, have been working with Regenerate...

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Chief Ombudsman releases final opinion on East Lake Trust/Regenerate Christchurch case

Greenwood Roche lawyers, Lauren Semple and Rachel Murdoch, have been working with Regenerate Christchurch on the development of the draft Otakaro Avon River Corridor Regeneration Plan which is the subject of this review case.


In response to a complaint, the Chief Ombudsman’s opinion confirms that Regenerate Christchurch acted lawfully and in an administratively reasonable manner in the development of the draft plan.  The draft plan is currently with the Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration for her approval or decline. For more information and to review the case note please click here.


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Productivity Commission - LG funding and financing

On the 4th of July the New Zealand Productivity Commission released a draft report on...

News & Insights

Productivity Commission - LG funding and financing

On the 4th of July the New Zealand Productivity Commission released a draft report on Local Government Funding and Financing.
 
This report is the result of the Government’s request for the Productivity Commission to undertake an inquiry into local government funding and financing; and where shortcomings in the current system are identified, to examine options and approaches for improving the system.


While there were a number of suggestions made, the draft report found the current framework is broadly sound. The Commission Chair stated “The current framework measures up well against the principles of a good funding and financing system for local government. It is clearly separated from the central government’s tax base which is an important feature. It is relatively simple and economically efficient. It also provides a high degree of flexibility for councils to shape how they raise their revenue.”
 
Existing tools
The report notes that councils can make better use of the tools they already have access to, and there is room to improve organisation performance, transparency and decision making that will help to relieve cost pressures. These existing tools include rates, fees are user charges, development contributions, central government funding and debt.
 
The Commission favours the “benefit principle” as the primary basis for deciding who should pay for local government services. Those who benefit from a service should pay for its costs. Additionally, where local services benefit national interests, central government should contribute. User charges or targeted rates should also be utilised.
 
The Commission found that there is no clear evidence that rates have become less affordable over time, despite this being one of the key reasons the inquiry was undertaken. Overall, rates have continued to broadly align with population and income growth over the past 3 decades, but have not become relatively more burdensome.
 
Cost pressures and new tools
The report noted some new tools are needed to help councils deal with some specific cost pressures. The highest priority pressures have been identified as:
 

  • Supply of infrastructure to support rapid urban growth: the failure of high growth councils to supply enough infrastructure to meet demand is a serious social and economic problem.
  • New tools: special purpose vehicles; central government funding; tax on vacant land; volumetric charging of wastewater; road congestion pricing; and value capture for property owners who enjoy “windfall gains”.
 
  • Climate change: rising sea levels and more intensive rain events threaten infrastructure, particularly roads and waste / storm water infrastructure. These risks are large and unevenly distributed across the country.
  • New Tools: Extended NZTA model; Local Government Resilience Fund and Agency; and more national leadership in developing and providing high-quality and consistent data, information, guidance and legal frameworks.
 
  • Tourism: the increasing number in tourists has led to pressure on several types of services and infrastructure in districts that are popular tourist destinations. Tourists are using mixed-use facilities without making a direct contribution.
  • New Tools: A tourist accommodation levy; and provide local councils with a share in the new international tourist border levy.
 
  • New standards and requirements from central government: e.g. meeting health and environmental standards in the three waters sector is a major challenge for many councils, and the Commission makes the case for significant reform of the sector.
  • New tools: development of a “Partners in Regulation” protocol to improve the state of relations between central and local government.
Submissions on the draft report are open until 29 August 2019. The final report is ultimately a recommendation to the Government and will not be bound by the results of the report. It is set to be released on 30 November 2019.


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Infrastructure Commission Bill Released

As part of its broader focus on the construction and infrastructure sectors, the Government...

News & Insights

Infrastructure Commission Bill Released

As part of its broader focus on the construction and infrastructure sectors, the Government is proposing a bill which would establish a Crown entity tasked with providing strategic independent advice and oversight on the planning, co-ordination and delivery of public sector-led infrastructure projects in New Zealand. 


Summary
The establishment of Te Waihanga – New Zealand Infrastructure Commission as a Crown entity is one of the more significant actions taken by the Government towards addressing the major infrastructure deficit in New Zealand, and the existing challenges with the planning, co-ordinating and delivery of infrastructure projects which have contributed to New Zealand’s current position.  Taking lead from similar initiatives in Australia, the UK and elsewhere, the Commission will provide strategic oversight and leadership over the way in which infrastructure projects are planned, co-ordinated and procured.  Critically, its functions are advisory only.  Any decision-making regarding infrastructure projects (including investment in those projects, or the timing for or manner in which they are procured and delivered) will remain with the relevant Ministers/departments.  

Specifics
Under the bill, Te Waihanga would be established as an autonomous Crown entity, governed by a board of up to 7 members.  The entity will largely take shape from the existing Infrastructure Transactions Unit currently within Treasury which will be incorporated into Te Waihanga once it is established (anticipated for October 2019).

The overarching function of the Commission is to co-ordinate, develop, and promote an approach to infrastructure and resulting services that improve the well-being of New Zealanders.  The bill authorises the Commission to carry out that function through two main ways:

1.  Strategy and planning through:

b. Providing advice on infrastructure including the current state of infrastructure, current and future infrastructure needs, infrastructure priorities, and matters which may prevent the effective delivery of infrastructure.

a. Promoting a strategic and coordinated approach to the delivery of infrastructure projects;

c. Providing support services to those projects, including advice, services or staff to assist in the delivery of a project.

While not specifically included as a provision in the bill, the explanatory note identifies that Te Waihanga would be empowered to, and will be expected to, promote best practice infrastructure delivery as part of its supporting function.  To that end, it is expected that the Commission will:

e.  Publish a pipeline identifying existing and upcoming infrastructure projects (the first of these can be accessed on the Treasury website);

f.  Produce best practice guidance on infrastructure procurement and delivery.  This function will be part of its role as the “centre of expertise to assist infrastructure projects to be delivered efficiently and effectively”.  To that end, where requested by the relevant department/Minister, the Commission will also provide advice on business cases for proposed projects. 

In support of its functions (and in addition to its general powers as a Crown entity), the bill both grants powers to, and imposes obligations on, the Commission, including:

  • The requirement to publish a strategy report setting out the Commission’s views on the ability for existing infrastructure to meet community expectations over the next 30 years, and the priorities for infrastructure over that same time period.  The report (which will be issued at least once every five years) may also include any other matter the Commission considers relevant.  The Minister for Infrastructure has the opportunity to comment on the report before it is finalised, but once finalised, the Government will then be required to provide a formal response to it which must be made public.
  • The Minister may also direct the Commission to provide a report on any matter relating to infrastructure.
  • Where necessary and desirable to enable the performance of its functions, the Commission is also empowered to require the provision of specific information from specified government departments, agencies, statutory entities and the New Zealand Defence Force. 

Comment
This proposal has generally received strong support and input from industry and experts within both the public and private sector, and represents a critical step towards a more informed, strategic and coherent approach to infrastructure planning, procurement and delivery.  Perhaps the biggest potential shortcoming is the general lack of any strong levers which would at least encourage action/compliance by other government departments with the advice of the Commission.  For example, while the Government would be required to issue a response to the Commission’s strategy reports, government departments are not obliged to consider the findings of the reports in reaching any decisions relating to procurement or planning of capital projects, nor consult with the Commission.  Consequently, to successfully effect change at the decision making level, the Commission will need to build a narrative around the positive impacts of sound planning and procurement, and the role that it can play in supporting other departments in achieving those outcomes.  Even if it is able to do so, there is still the risk that the Commission could be sidelined.

Among the options to mitigate this risk, there is the opportunity to expand the Commission’s mandate to include monitoring and reporting on the Government’s progress in addressing New Zealand’s infrastructure challenges.  While under the current proposal it would be required to provide “state of the nation” assessments, there is no explicit directive to undertake on-going monitoring of how the Government is responding to the findings of the Commission’s assessments, including how it is addressing identified constraints on the effective delivery of infrastructure.  Expanding the Commission’s mandate to include monitoring and reporting on the Government’s response to the identified challenges and opportunities (which would also, as a first step, require the development of some form of metric) would strengthen the Commission’s ability to keep the Government accountable for effecting improvements in the planning, procurement and delivery of infrastructure.

For further information on the Commission or if you are interested in receiving further updates on this matter, please do not hesitate to contact us.


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Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill Released

The Government’s most significant legislative response to the climate crisis was...

Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill Released

News & Insights

Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill Released

Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill Released

The Government’s most significant legislative response to the climate crisis was released ahead of its first reading in Parliament earlier this week.  Taking its lead from the UK’s climate change legislation, the bill seeks to provide a framework for developing and implementing climate change policies that will contribute to the international effort to limit the global average temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.


Utilising the existing emissions trading scheme, the bill proposes the allocation of emissions budgets (issued every five years) designed to enable a “just and fair” transition of New Zealand’s industry and economy towards meeting the 2050 target.  The target adopts a “split-gas” approach, where by 2050:

• Biogenic methane emissions will have reduced by 24 – 27% below 2017 levels.  By 2030, they will have reduced by 10%.
• All other net greenhouse gas emissions will have reduced (through reductions, removals and offshore mitigation) to zero.

Under the bill, the relevant Minister must ensure that net emissions do not exceed the emissions budget for the relevant emissions budget period.  Along with setting the budget, the Minister will also be required to prepare an emissions reduction plan which will set out the policies and strategies for meeting such a budget.  There is however no legal remedy or relief available for failing to meet an emissions budget or for failing to meet the overall 2050 target, other than the issuing of a declaration and an award of costs.  Similarly, meeting the emissions budgets and the 2050 targets are only permissive considerations for those exercising public functions.  A failure to take a budget or the 2050 target into account will not invalidate the action.  Consequently, as with the UK legislation, much of the success of this legislation will therefore rely on political and industry pressure to achieve compliance with the emissions budgets.

In addition to requiring the preparation of emissions budgets and ensuring that they (and as a result the 2050 target) are met, the bill would establish the Climate Change Commission.  The Commission is an independent Crown entity tasked with both advising the Government on its emissions budgets and reductions and adaption plans, and monitoring and reporting on progress towards meeting emissions budgets and the 2050 targets.  In particular, the Commission will be required to recommend the quantity of emissions permitted for each period, how the budget will be met including pricing and policy methods, and the indicated proportion of reductions, removals and offshore mitigation.  While the Minister is not required to accept its advice or recommendations, the Minister is required to present the Commission’s reports to the House and issue a public response to that assessment.  Critically, the bill is prescriptive in the skillsets required for the Commission which include expertise in climate science, matauranga Māori and Te Ao Māori, central and local government policy and decision making, and experience from a range of sectors and industries. 

As mentioned, the bill anticipates that emissions budgets will be met through some combination of emissions removal (sequestration of some form), reduction and, in limited circumstances, offshore mitigation.  Offshore mitigation would allow the purchase of emissions reductions and removals, or allows from international emissions trading schemes.  While the use of offshore mitigation is generally discouraged under the bill, the ability to utilise that method provides some further flexibility to both industry and Government in seeking to meet the emissions budgets.  Unlike the UK legislation, there is no mention of whether and how New Zealand’s contribution to international aviation and shipping emissions will be accounted for, though this may be a matter that is subject to consideration by the Commission once it is established.

Commentary

Informed by extensive public consultation and a range of technical (including environmental and economic) analysis, the bill has of course already attracted a wide ranging response across different sectors.  While applauding the framework for action, climate scientists and environmentalists have generally voiced concerns around the absence of enforcement/accountability for failing to meet targets.  While similarly applauding the intent, other industries have voiced concerns over how realistic the targets are given the available technology. 

From the analysis in support of the bill, it is clear that if the targets are to be reached then significant investment in innovative technologies to support industry towards more carbon neutral operations, and planting of trees (or use of other devices) that effectively sequester carbon will be critical. It is also clear that if the bill passes, there is a great deal of work ahead for particularly the Climate Change Commission in its role as an advisor to, and watchdog of, the Government in its response to the climate crisis.  As has been illustrated by the UK Commission, critical success factors for this agency will be strong credibility and influence generated by well-rounded and in-depth expertise (including in policy making, business and industry), independence and transparency.  Partnership with Māori at all levels of decision-making will also be vital.  

There appears to be strong (albeit not complete) consensus across industry and political parties alike that taking action to reduce New Zealand’s carbon footprint is critical if we are to contribute to the global effort to slow the rate of our changing climate.  How extensive that action is, how quickly it can be taken, and of course who pays for it remains to be seen.  However this bill provides a strong framework for ambitious decisions to be made – ambitious decisions which will be required if the 2050 target is to be met.  The (largely equivalent) UK legislation is highly regarded, having been replicated in a number of other countries.   That Commission has been identified as having an excellent reputation, producing reports that carry “immense authority” and influence over Government.  

Notwithstanding the absence of any obligation on other facets of Government to consider the Commission’s advice, it is clear that both the Commission and the Act itself has influenced policy development across sectors.  Reports on the Act have also noted that the planning and reporting obligations on Government and the Commission have added value in “produc[ing] a kind of transparent dialogue that invites political accountability”.  Moreover, as a result of the work undertaken by the Commission, Government and industry, the UK has met its first emissions budget and looks set to meet its second and third.  It is however acknowledged that “low-hanging fruit” in the early years have made this task more straightforward, and more ambitious, controversial decisions are ahead if the UK is to continue its path of emissions reductions. 

The Zero Carbon bill has a way to go before it passes, and we may well see some changes as it moves through the House.  With National supporting the bill through its first reading earlier this week, it will now progress to select committee stage where the public will have the opportunity to share its views on the bill.

Our team is following this closely, so please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about the bill.  We have also prepared a more detailed summary of how the bill operates and we are more than happy to provide this to you and your team should you wish.

________________________________________

1.  New Zealand Productivity Commission Te Kōmihana Whai Hua o Aotearoa Note: Examining the UK Climate Change Act – Research Note, Teresea Weeks, September 2017 at p.20.
2.  Macroy, R. (2014).  “The UK Climate Change Act – Towards a Brave New World? (2012)” in Regulation, enforcement and governance in environmental law (2ed), 261-274.  Oxford: Hart Publishing, p 267
3.  Church, J. (2016). Mind the Gap – Reviving the Climate Change Act.  October 2016. London: ClientEarth, p.13.
 


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