The IUCN Academy of Environmental Law series
Chapter 10: Consensus federalism and freshwater regulation
At what level of governance should environmental regulation most effectively be carried out? This chapter reframes and responds to that federalism question by focusing not only on the level of government, but also on how stakeholders are incorporated into the process. It poses as a case study the current freshwater reforms in New Zealand, which are centralising water quality regulations through consensus-based decision-making at both a national and regional level. It labels this process consensus federalism. These reforms can usefully be compared to the environmental federalism of the 1970s in the United States. Although federalism has been extensively debated, the debate has been preoccupied with constitutional concerns, with little attention paid to the role of consensus-based decision-making. Overall, consensus federalism is a positive development for New Zealand and, based on the United States experience with environmental federalism, can be predicted to lead to improved environmental outcomes. However, some specific criticisms are made of the reforms.
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