Environmental Agency Faces Funding Shortage Amid Increasing Duties

Samar Esbr
Published 2 weeks ago on 8 February, 2024
Cash crisis looming for key environmental regulator as responsibilities grow

A cash crisis is looming for New Zealand’s key environmental regulator, the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), as its responsibilities grow. The EPA, which oversees the approval of hazardous substances and the assessment of genetically modified organisms, is facing financial instability. With seven years of deficits, the agency warns of a cash shortfall by the next financial year if the situation remains unaddressed.

Key takeaways

  • EPA warns of a cash crisis by the next financial year.
  • Financial sustainability is a major threat to EPA operations.
  • Expanded functions and inflation contribute to financial woes.
  • Baseline funding has not kept pace with staff growth.
  • Agency efficiency is not the issue, according to a review.
The EPA is in urgent need of increased funding to continue its critical role in regulating hazardous substances and GMOs, without which its capacity to function effectively is at risk.

EPA Struggles to Balance Growing Duties

The EPA’s financial distress is underscored by its expanding role in approving new chemicals and fast-tracking major developments. Despite increased responsibilities, the agency’s funding has not seen a commensurate rise, leading to the current cash crisis looming for the key environmental regulator as responsibilities grow.

With only a 9 percent increase in baseline funding against a 45 percent staff increase, the EPA’s operational model is unsustainable. The agency’s briefing to the government highlights the dire need for financial intervention to maintain its functions.

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New Zealand EPA cash crisis Appropriate legislation to support it

Legislative amendments are crucial for the EPA to keep up with the pace of technological and biotechnological advancements. The agency has indicated that without changes to the HSNO Act, it will continue to face limitations that hinder its efficiency in assessing new organism applications.

Moreover, the cash crisis looming for the key environmental regulator as responsibilities grow is not due to the (agency) being a roadblock for GMOs, but rather due to the current legislative constraints that need to be addressed.

New Zealand EPA cash crisis; Important Information and Data:

Year Full-time Staff Deficit
2016/17 149
Current Year 216 $4 million
Baseline Funding Increase Since 2016/17 9%

The cash crisis looming for New Zealand’s EPA is a growing concern as the agency’s responsibilities increase without adequate financial support. The EPA’s role in safeguarding the environment by regulating toxic chemicals and GMOs is at stake. To prevent a reduction in its critical functions, the EPA urgently requires a funding boost. Without this, New Zealand risks compromising its environmental protection standards and its ability to innovate in the biotechnology sector.

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