Environmental Defence Society v New Zealand King Salmon Company Ltd  NZSC 38
The Supreme Court decision of Environmental Defence Society v New Zealand King Salmon Company is often cited as one of EDS’s biggest victories.
It confirmed that the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement (NZCPS) sets a firm environmental bottom line for coastal landscapes which needs to be given effect to. This was in contrast to the overall broad judgment approach which had previously been adopted in interpreting the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA).
Under the overall broad judgment approach, it was considered that the word ‘while’ in the chapeau of the purpose section of the RMA (section 5), acted to separate the environmental effects contained in subparagraphs (a)-(c) from the economic considerations in the chapeau; and that these effects had to be balanced against one another.
The Supreme Court held that the definition of sustainable management must be read as an integrated whole and the environmental effects described in subparagraphs (a)-(c) must be observed in the course of the management referred to in the opening part of the definition.
The Supreme Court also determined that, although section 5 does not create primacy for environmental protection (through the setting of environmental bottom lines), in certain circumstances sustainable management may require that particular environments be protected from the adverse effects of inappropriate activities. These circumstances will be defined by other planning documents, which themselves may set strict environmental bottom lines. In this case, the NZCPS set strict bottom lines by requiring the avoidance of adverse effects on outstanding natural landscapes in the coastal environment (including from effects from activities outside such landscapes).