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Judge Prudence Steven
Christchurch Environmental Court


Keynote Speaker

Judge Prudence Steven KC was sworn in as an Environment Judge and District Court Judge on 15 February 2021. Prior to appointment, her practice focused on resource management and local government/public law, including advising on irrigation proposals, water quality and quantity issues, hydro-electricity, mining, landscape and biodiversity issues, adventure tourism, coastal marine activities, retail, commercial and residential greenfield developments, heritage, forestry and infrastructure projects and appearing at all levels of the courts.

Judge Steven was appointed the in-house legal counsel for the Christchurch City Council early in her career. She was a founding partner of the firm Goodman Steven Tavendale Reid in 2001 before becoming a barrister sole in Canterbury Chambers in 2008. She was made a Queen’s Counsel in 2014.





As a compliance and enforcement officer you will play a critical role in achieving sustainable management of water, air and land resources.  This talk will briefly reflect on my experience as a judge sitting in the Environment Court and District Court. It will particularly focus on the issues with evidence put before the court in these jurisdictions. This talk is not aimed at giving you guidance as to which of the regulatory interventions under the RMA you should use; you have your employing council for that purpose.

As a warranted enforcement officer under the Resource Management Act (RMA) you are empowered to enter onto land to check compliance. This inspection may be a result of a complaint that is being investigated, or it may be part of a program for monitoring compliance with a resource consent, an abatement notice or a rule in a district or regional plan.  

This inspection is often the first stage of an investigation that might result in proceedings being instigated in either the civil or criminal jurisdiction. So, when undertaking an inspection at any stage of an investigation you will need a sound understanding of the legal obligations that fall on you, the inspector. 

This talk will touch on the following aspects that I believe you should have regard to when undertaking an inspection:


  • The elements of the regional or district plan rule, or the resource consent conditions alleged to have been breached.

  • Whether the evidence collected will meet the evidential burden, particularly in the criminal context?

  • Is the power of inspection able to be exercised in an investigation that may lead to charges in the criminal jurisdiction?

  • At what point in an investigation will you be exceeding the scope of the powers of inspection under s332? Should the inspection instead be undertaken under a search warrant issued sought under s334? It is important to understand the conceptual differences between the powers under each of these provisions. Especially as any evidence collected at an inspection utilising s332 powers may be vulnerable to challenge.


Thursday 2nd November

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