LAWENVIR 716 - Resource Management Law

Lecturer biography

Ken Palmer’s teaching and research interests include environmental law, resource management law, and local government law. In the earlier part of his career, following the obtaining of an LLM degree from Harvard Law School, he was a lecturer in criminal law, and introduced the subject of civil rights. After completing the SJD degree at the University of Virginia in 1976, the research thesis was revised for publication of the texts Local Government Law, and Planning Law in New Zealand, 1977. Between 1978 and 1988, Ken was the editor of New Zealand Recent Law, a monthly bulletin published by the Legal Research Foundation. In 1984, a two-volume update of the Planning Law book was published titled Planning and Development Law in New Zealand, and a second addition of Local Government Law in New Zealand was published 1993. Ken contributed two chapters to the Laws of New Zealand publication, comprising "Resource Management Law" (1995) and "Ports and Harbours", (2000). In 1993, Local Government Law in New Zealand (2nd ed) was published. In 2012, a revised text, Local Authorities Law in New Zealand (Brookers) was published.

More recently, Ken has revised three chapters and written a new chapter to D Nolan, Environmental and Resource Management Law, LexisNexis 5th ed 2015. That major text has been published as a loose leaf/online edition. Ken has contributed a chapter 15 on compulsory acquisition and compensation in T Bennion ed, New Zealand Land Law, Brookers (2nd ed 2009).

In 1997, Ken was the foundation editor of the New Zealand Journal of Environmental Law, and has remained the editor of the annual publication through volume 20 (2016). That journal, published by the Law School has gained an international reputation. In 1998, Ken was a founding member of the New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law based at the Auckland Law School. He has promoted the teaching of environmental law for non-lawyers, and the expansion of the masters programme to allow for entry by persons without a law background. Those students may take the degree Master of Legal Studies (Environmental).

In 2016, Ken retired from full-time engagement as an Associate Professor of Law at the Auckland Law School. He continues at the Law School as a Research Fellow.

Course outline

On its enactment the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) was heralded both domestically and internationally as an exemplar of progressive environmental legislation. The Act unified New Zealand’s previously disparate collection of environmental and planning laws around the central concept of sustainable management. Despite such promising beginnings, the RMA has faced significant criticism over the past 26 years. It has been criticised by stakeholders as mandating excessive ‘red tape’ that restricts efficient economic development, while also failing to prevent the ongoing degradation of New Zealand’s environment.

This course will critically examine the RMA, its institutions and actors before assessing how it has addressed key environmental challenges facing New Zealand such as water quality, conservation and biodiversity, urban development and climate change. Finally, the course will consider options for reform that are currently being promoted by government agencies and other stakeholders.


Principal topics will include:

  • The RMA, sustainable management and New Zealand’s environment
  • The role of central and local government; National Policy Statements, National Planning Standards, National Environmental Standards
  • Public participation and consultative decision making under the RMA
  • Māori participation, Mana Whakahono a Rohe, Māori cultural and customary rights recognition
  • The role of the Environment Court, special hearing panels, higher Courts, and experts
  • The influence of property rights on the RMA, including public and utility works, and heritage protection; compensation issues
  • The RMA’s response to environmental challenges - water quality, conservation and biodiversity, urban development and climate change
  • RMA reforms, including the Productivity Commission report Better Urban Planning

Course outcomes

A student who has successfully completed this course should:

  • Understand the role of the RMA and its institutions in regulating New Zealand’s environment
  • Recognise and understand the position of the public, professionals and stakeholders in implementing the regime
  • Understand the challenges to the RMA posed by existing and future environmental problems
  • Be able to critically examine proposed resource management reform


  • 90% research essay of 12,500 words
  • 10% class participation and presentation


Each student is required to submit a research essay of no more than 12,500 words including an abstract/synopsis of 250 words. The essay is to be original work, relying on secondary and primary sources. It MUST be the work of the enrolled student. Another person, other than the enrolled student, MUST NOT write the essay nor do the research on behalf of the enrolled student. Plagiarism is not permitted and in that regard each student should read the University’s plagiarism policy and adhere to it. All students will be expected to sign a plagiarism declaration when submitting their essays. Students must also use proper legal citations and include a reading list at the end of their type-written essay. The essay should be comprised of properly crafted English sentences (note form is unacceptable). The use of sub-headings is encouraged and footnotes rather than Harvard style in-text referencing are to be used.

Descriptive essays are not encouraged. Instead students are expected to engage with relevant legal issues by: critiquing the law; developing proposals for reform; examining the operation of law and policy in practice; and/or providing a conceptual analysis of the law, for example.

Essays must be submitted to the Faculty of Law, by 27 November 2017.

Extensions will not be granted lightly (only on sickness and compassionate grounds) and must be requested formally through the Postgraduate Manager.

Class participation/presentation

Each student will be asked to prepare a brief (10-15 minute) presentation on their research. In addition, each student is expected to make individual contributions to seminar discussions throughout the course. Students will be individually assessed on the quality of their contributions.

Criteria and marking

Students will be individually assessed on the quality of their contributions with reference to the following criteria:

  • The extent to which the student has identified the important and relevant issues
  • The depth and thoroughness of understanding of the seminar material
  • The strength and clarity of the arguments presented
  • The extent to which issues are placed in their wider context
  • The analysis and synthesis of material
  • The ability to draw worthwhile conclusions

Class participation will be assessed over the whole course. Quality rather than quantity will be assessed but clearly if a student is not present for all the classes, it will be impossible to achieve the maximum marks possible even if a student’s contributions are brilliant when he/she does speak. Students are reminded that the full range of marks is available to the lecturer in assessing class participation. Please be assured that the lecturer is very aware that mistakes are part of learning.

Accordingly, "getting the law right" is not the key focus of the class participation component of assessment. Rather, class participation is included to extend students and to assess students’ imaginative understanding of, and engagement with, the materials under discussion.

Reading materials

Reading materials will be contained in the Coursebook available at the University Book Shop. Students may also be asked to access additional materials via the internet or in the library.

Teaching method

The course will be taught over 12 weeks. Classes will be interactive and it will, therefore, be necessary for students to complete the scheduled pre-reading so that they get the most out of the materials under discussion.

Course details

Semester: Two
Dates: Tuesday
Times: 5-8pm
Value: 30 points
Location: Building 810, Room 340
1-11 Short Street
Assignment due date: 27 November 2017

Contact details

Law Student Centre
Level 2, 1-11 Short Street


Lecturer contact details
Room 415, Building 801, 9 Eden Crescent