Disaster Waste Law : An analysis of the implications of existing legislation on disaster waste management in New Zealand
In the recovery following a disaster, disaster waste managers are restricted by existing legislation. In many cases, emergency legislation is available to waive peace-time requirements to reduce threats to life, property and the environment. But disaster waste management sits in a grey area between an immediate hazard and a longer term threat to the economic, social and environmental recovery of a disaster struck area. Emergency laws are not often written with disaster recovery in mind. Legal waivers were used effectively and ineffectively during the waste management processes following both Hurricane Katrina, 2005 and the Victorian Bushfires, 2009. In both these examples it was clear that the main driver behind use of the legal waivers was to expedite the clean-up process. New Zealand law applicable to disaster waste is complex with a plethora of legislations and regulatory authorities associated with it. In general, current laws have adequate provisions to cope with the likely needs of disaster waste management, however, the complexity of responsibilities, stakeholders and unclear statutory precedence may result in slow or ineffectual decision-making. One potential bottle neck identified is the restrictions on transportation of hazardous goods by road and by sea. Complex licencing and permitting structures may be extremely restrictive. The consultative, effects based nature of the Resource Management Act in New Zealand is also a potential hurdle to long-term disaster waste management. While there are effective emergency mechanisms to commence activities quickly, medium to long-term continuation of activities will be dependent on resource consent approval. The uncertainties associated with consent approvals may dis-empower the decision-maker. A pre-established, regulatory approved, assessment process which balances social restoration and environmental protection would be a useful tool to support the decision maker.I n general, disaster waste management laws needs to: allow for flexibility for adaptation to any situation; be bounded enough to provide support and confidence in outcomes for decision-makers; be effectively communicated with the public both pre and post disaster; and provide stream-lining of waste management organisational structures including decision-making authority.