Information Requirements in Natural Resources Law: Geothermal, Fisheries and Petroleum Compared
Permanent link to Research Commons versionhttps://hdl.handle.net/10289/15212
The purpose of this research is to demonstrate the key role of legal provisions for information in natural resource law, particularly legal provisions within a resource manager and resource developer relationship. Using three legislative regimes, the research examines and compares information provisions’ functions substantively and procedurally. The research shows that limitations in existing provisions for information under these regimes provide important lessons for articulating optimum legal characteristics for information provisions in natural resources law for the future. The main research question: What legal characteristics are desirable in information requirements for managing natural resources? guides the analysis. Information is at the heart of natural resource decision-making. Information provisions are instrumental in assessing the practical, economic and legal feasibility of resource development and in gauging a resource developer’s compliance with law. To understand what legal characteristics are desirable in information provisions, the thesis compares the management of three natural resources: the geothermal resource under the Resource Management Act 1991, the ocean fisheries resource under the Fisheries Act 1996, and the petroleum resource under the Crown Minerals Act 1991. In New Zealand, either a central or regional government agency authorises and manages the use of these “subsurface” resources, with statutory requirements for information applying to both a state agency (the resource manager) and to a private developer exploiting a resource. Public accountability for resource management is established through the provision of accurate and relevant information. The thesis uses a natural resource law lens to examine the (usually) bilateral agreement between resource manager and resource developer. Such agreements take the form of a resource-use permit or licence. To ensure that the terms of the agreement are met, a resource user must regularly provide an agency with information (and data) on how a resource is exploited. Under each legislative regime, non-statutory information management tools such as adaptive management and technical peer review facilitate and provide oversight of the natural resource agreement. The thesis analyses these mechanisms including the use of technical modelling as a regulatory tool. Using regulation theory, the research also explores the influence of the regulatory relationship on the fulfilment of information provisions and the extent to which resource users are involved in rule development and resource co-management, revealing how information problems can arise with process informality and public accountability. The research is significant overall because increasing demands on natural resources mean accountable decision-making is increasingly expected. Justifiable and defensible reasons for decisions are vital to long-term sustainable resource management and to human survival and flourishing. While economic justifications for resource development remain relevant, the thesis demonstrates that equitable resource management that benefits multiple interests, including the rights of Māori in natural resources, is needed. Significantly, despite substantial advances in industrial-scale geothermal resource exploitation and significant developments in geothermal policy and rules in New Zealand, no thorough legal analysis of geothermal resource management law has occurred in recent decades. By using the geothermal resource as its main case study resource, this research fills a gap in the legal literature. A review of geothermal resources law is therefore valuable and timely in guiding the future management of geothermal resources into a low-carbon energy future. Commonalities in information challenges across the three resources examined emphasise the key role of legal provisions for information broadly in natural resources law. As Aotearoa New Zealand proceeds with its largest suite of resource management law reform in thirty years, the key role of legal provisions for information in natural resources law must be realised. The study concludes that legal provisions for information in natural resources law must support multilateral interests, contain functional clarity, and provide formalised processes and links with meta-goals that reach beyond each legal regime’s purpose.
The University of Waikato
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