Update of National Audit of Regulations Influencing Mining Exploration & Project Approval Processes

Executive Summary

Several more changes are in the “pipeline”, including a number of Bills (some may now be Acts) before various Parliaments. For New Zealand, the regulatory arrangements have been more stable, but this could change with a number of regulatory reform initiatives currently being progressed by the New Zealand Government.

Further to the changes to primary legislation, there have been a plethora of consequential changes to subordinate legislation, Ministerial Directions and Guidelines, as well as to official government guidelines and policy strategies. In turn, these changes have given rise to a plethora of technical and administrative changes which seek to make minor adjustments to the approval processes, including fees and charges.

The extent of regulatory “churn” is highly destabilising for business. Further, the audit update also revealed that while there is a strong commitment to red/green tape reduction by governments, this has resulted in a plethora of review processes rather than efficiency reforms.

The underlying “market failure” reasons why government need to intervene to regulate minerals exploration and mining projects do not change quickly over time, therefore the extent of review activity and regulatory change since January 2006 is difficult to explain. A general conclusion is that the approval processes have become more politicised and with a shorter-term focus since the 2006 Audit, and that this has increased uncertainty and compliance costs for industry, as well as the costs incurred by government agencies in administering the processes.

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