A new infringement system for conservation related offending
By: Michelle Mehlhopt, Imogen Edwards
Published: 19/03/2018
The Conservation (Infringement System) Bill is currently with the Environment Committee and is open for submissions until Friday, 6 April 2018.
 
The Bill provides central and local government agencies with infringement notices as another tool for dealing with lesser offences under conservation legislation. 

The Bill seeks to introduce this new infringement system by amending the following conservation-related legislation:
  • Conservation Act 1987
  • Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978
  • Marine Reserves Act 1971
  • National Parks Act 1980
  • Reserves Act 1977
  • Trade in Endangered Species Act 1989
  • Wild Animal control Act 1977
  • Wildlife Act 1953
At present, the enforcement options for minor offending under these pieces of legislation are a formal warning or prosecution.  In many cases, prosecution and the possibility of criminal conviction can be a disproportionate response to minor offending.  However, at the other end of the spectrum, a warning can be an ineffective response to deter future offending.
 
The Bill proposes to address these issues by inserting a new set of infringement offences into each of these Acts.  The new system would allow a warning to be given, an infringement notice to be issued, or a prosecution to be taken, depending on the seriousness of the offending.  Warranted DOC officers and local authority officials (in relation to the reserves that councils administer) would be able to issue infringement notices for less serious breaches of the offence provisions.  The recipient of an infringement notice would be liable to an infringement fee, rather than a court summons and a potential conviction.
 
This new system is a welcome change for local authorities and government agencies as it will provide for:
  • Appropriate enforcement options that are proportionate to the level of offending;
  • A more efficient and cost-effective compliance regime; and
  • Consistency between how compliance on reserves administered under the Reserves Act 1977 is managed compared to compliance on public lands held under the Local Government Act 2002.
Whilst not in the Bill itself, the Environment Committee is also seeking views from the public on whether fish and game councils should be granted infringement powers.

Submissions close on Friday, 6 April 2018.
 
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