Environment, Planning and Natural Resources

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Securing a bright future

New Zealand is growing at a rapid rate, particularly in Auckland and our other larger urban centres where demand for housing, infrastructure and services continues to surge. In the regions, two of the country’s biggest industries – agriculture and tourism – face challenges to their use of the country's finite natural resources. To add to all of this is the threat of climate change and a growing public and corporate consciousness of the many environmental concerns we now face.

As New Zealand strives to maintain its ‘clean green’ international brand while at the same time providing for growth and development, new challenges and opportunities are presenting themselves to both domestic and international businesses.

We help our clients meet these challenges and seize the opportunities by helping them to understand the changing legal, regulatory and political frameworks around urban planning, infrastructure development and environmental issues like freshwater quality and climate change.

We bring together a mix of highly experienced partners and energetic forward thinkers to assist clients manage their development, planning and environmental issues, and work within the climate policy framework. We have substantial experience acting for clients in environmental and resource management proceedings, both before the Environment Court and the superior Courts including New Zealand’s Supreme Court.

Consenting, Planning and Development

As our cities grow and intensify, the challenges facing new projects get more and more complex. Organisations undertaking major commercial, infrastructure and industrial developments therefore need a team who works restlessly to get the approvals they need.

A key focus is on helping our clients secure necessary planning approvals. Our team is highly experienced in enabling our clients to get their developments off the ground, by successfully obtaining changes to district and regional planning schemes and securing resource consents. 

We also provide advice on national planning documents, on rating and development contributions and on other local government regulations such as building costs. We also draw from our dynamic litigation team, should the need to defend enforcement proceedings or prosecutions arise.

Our experience includes advising:

  • Stevenson Group and Goodman Properties on the development of the Drury South Precinct (a major greenfield development including 45 ha of residential land, 145 ha of industrial land and 90 ha of public open space).
  • A range of clients on Auckland's Proposed Unitary Plan, the biggest urban planning exercise in New Zealand's history.
  • Woodward Infrastructure Ltd in securing the resource consents for the proposed SkyPath project – a walking and cycling pathway across the Auckland Harbour Bridge.
  • Precinct Properties on obtaining a range of statutory approvals for the purchase and subsequent redevelopment of Queen Elizabeth Square in downtown Auckland for international retail and food and beverage activities. 
  • SkyCity in obtaining consent for New Zealand International Convention Centre, a significant development in Auckland's CBD, on a non-notified basis.
  • Auckland International Airport on environmental issues arising from its proposed second runway and associated facilities, and on the successful rezoning of rural land to the north of the Airport for business activities.
  • Progressive Enterprises on the consenting of Vinegar Lane, for a mixed-use development planned around ‘collective individuality', enabling purchasers to design buildings after consent was obtained.
  • Scentre in its successful resource consents and plan change applications for the expansion of its developments in Newmarket, Albany, and St Lukes, in Auckland, and Riccarton in Christchurch.
  • A range of clients, including substantive Council-Controlled Organisations and significant infrastructure providers, on the major reorganisation of Auckland's local governance, including submissions to the Royal Commission and drafting necessary legislation and Orders in Council. 

Fresh Water

Fresh water is a contentious regulatory topic and the subject of significant proposed regulatory reform. Our team guides our clients through the legal, regulatory and political challenges of New Zealand's changing water landscape, bringing a detailed understanding of the practical issues facing water users. This includes the critical issue of priority to water resources through involvement in both High Court and Supreme Court proceedings, and the issues of water quality and nutrient management. We have advised a number of clients in relation to freshwater policy issues, including multiple parties involved in the Land and Water Forum.

A number of high-profile clients seek our advice, including Watercare since 1999, in respect of its water and wastewater networks, and bulk water supply dams.

Our experience includes advising:

  • Watercare in obtaining all necessary approvals for the $800m Central Interceptor project, and protecting the routes for the Northern Interceptor and North Harbour No.2 Watermain, three major water and wastewater infrastructure projects required to service the anticipated growth of Auckland.
  • Trustpower in respect of the Lake Coleridge Project, including securing a variation to the Rakaia River National Water Conservation Order, and in securing the resource consents for the Wairau Hydroelectric Power Scheme.
  • Advising Fonterra on planning issues across the country, including on changes to water quality and nutrient management policy documents and planning rules and in relation to Government policy reform.
  • Rangitata Diversion Race Management on water supply agreements, water swap agreements, and access to its infrastructure by an additional irrigation company.
  • Lion/Wither Hills in relation to the grant by Lion/Wither Hills of certain water rights to neighbouring vineyards in Marlborough.
  • Fonterra, Dairy NZ, Irrigation NZ, Horticulture NZ and Federated Farmers on the proposed development of the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme in Hawke's Bay.

Climate Change

The Climate Change Response Act (2002) sets out provisions for the introduction of the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS). Companies in emitting industries need to be aware of their obligations under the scheme. We develop submissions to Government on the NZ ETS, assist clients in engaging with officials during the legislative process and advise on the legislation's implications. Our specialist team provides insightful, clear advice on this developing area of law.

We have also worked with clients in relation to Commerce Commission scrutiny in the climate change area, specifically in relation to carbon reduction or neutrality claims, and 'greenwashing' advertising representations. Businesses making, or planning to make, environmental claims, benefit from our deep knowledge of the legislation and experience in dealings with the Commerce Commission.

Find out more about our Climate Change expertise here.

Our experience includes:

  • Developing submissions to the Government on the introduction of the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS).
  • Assisting clients in engaging with officials and MPs during the legislative process around the NZ ETS introduction.
  • Advising on the implications for business following the introduction of new legislation.
  • Advising on compliance with the legislation.
  • Drafting and amending contracts and prospectuses involving emissions trading.
  • Working with clients in relation to Commerce Commission scrutiny in the climate change area, and specifically in relation to carbon reduction or neutrality claims, and “greenwashing” advertising representations.

Energy and Renewables

The move towards decarbonisation is driving rapid growth in renewable energy, producing massive commercial opportunities for organisations that move fast. Before committing to energy projects, organisations require a deep understanding of the regulatory environment they are entering. Our lawyers provide the industry-specific expertise businesses need to get their projects off the ground. We work for industry leaders in the fields of oil and gas and electricity generation and are regularly involved in significant energy transactions.

Read more about our energy and renewables expertise here



Our experience includes advising:

  • Trustpower on its liquidation and demerger into two separate NZX and ASX listed companies so as to separate its hydro generation and retail base from its wind farm assets.
  • One of Australasia’s largest energy companies on its divestment of seven oil fields to companies listed in Canada and the UK.
  • Chevron on the establishment of its upstream operations in New Zealand.
  • Transpower (owner/operator of New Zealand’s national grid) on its facilities management arrangements.
  • Vector on the ongoing operation and development of Auckland’s retail electricity and gas networks. 
  • Origin Energy on oil and gas contractual arrangements including processing agreements, pipeline access arrangements, drilling and option arrangements, and royalty sharing agreements, as well as on regulatory issues and the divestment of the TAWN assets.
  • Meridian Energy on the upgrade of its generation control system and associated hardware and software and the development of its solar power plant in Mendota, California.
  • Genesis Energy on the ongoing operation of its Huntly coal-fired power station. 

Our experience includes advising:
  • A geothermal operator in successfully obtaining district and regional resource consents to enable it to construct and operate a new geothermal power station on the Wairakei field.
  • Iwi groups in relation to the consenting of the Tauhura II geothermal project. 

Our experience includes advising:
  • Trustpower in successfully obtaining resource consents to construct and operate a new hydro scheme in the Wairau Valley
  • Trustpower in securing a variation to the Rakaia River Water Conservation Order to enable the Lake Coleridge project, a combined hydro-electric and irrigation project, based on the Coleridge Hydroelectric Power Station.  

Our experience includes advising:
  • Meridian Energy on the development of solar and wind generation projects in California, Australia, New Zealand and Tonga.
  • Trustpower in securing resource consents for the Kaiwera Downs wind farm. 

Our experience includes advising:
  • Mobil on the restructure of its New Zealand operations.
  • Mobil on its Foodstuffs fuel dockets and bulk fuel supply contract.
  • Origin Energy in protecting its oil and gas production assets in the Taranaki Bight from the potential impacts of iron sand mining proposals.

Coastal Development

New Zealanders place great value on our coastlines and coastal resources. Our largest cities are located on or near major harbours and, as a trading nation, our economy is dependent on our network of seaports to ensure our exports and imports reach their markets. Our team is a long-standing leader in coastal development, including coastal infrastructure, regeneration projects, aquaculture, marinas and residential developments. 

Our experience includes advising:

  • Ports of Auckland and Auckland International Airport on a range of development projects and on coastal planning documents, including the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement and the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan.
  • Waterfront Auckland (now Panuku Development Auckland) on rezoning the former industrial land on Auckland's waterfront to enable urban regeneration, and obtaining consent for a number of civic projects including the Marine Event Centre, the lifting bridge connecting the area to the CBD, and public space upgrades.
  • The New Zealand King Salmon Company on its proposal (of national significance) for nine new salmon farms in the Malborough Sounds.
  • Aquaculture New Zealand on the regulatory framework and legislative amendments applying to existing and future marine farming activities. 
  • Bayswater Marina Holdings on the development of the Bayswater and Hobsonville Marinas, including providing advice on the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan provisions applying to these sites. 
  • The Weiti Development Limited Partnership on the development of the coastal 860 ha Weiti Precinct for residential uses

Exclusive Economic Zone

New Zealand has the fourth largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the world. The Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) 2012 has recently established a new framework governing the management of the natural resources located over this vast area. The new regime presents significant opportunities, but also significant challenges, for both businesses already established in the EEZ and newcomers wanting to obtain new approvals. 

We provided advice to a range of clients during the Government's development of the EEZ legislation and were successful in obtaining a number of key amendments during the legislative process. Since the legislation came into force we have continued to advise clients on its application, including in relation to several significant marine mining proposals that have sought consent.  

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