Powers of Investigation

The extent of an investigator's authority

Generally, an investigator has the authority to investigate incidents within the scope of duties and responsibilities laid down by the authority's empowering legislation. For example, investigators employed by a district council should not use their powers to obtain evidence for offences outside the jurisdiction of the district council.

An investigator has no more rights than the ordinary person in obtaining evidence, except if given specific powers to do so. An example of this is entry to private land.

Enforcement officer authorisation and warrants

Before a person can carry out all or any of the functions and powers of an enforcement officer under the RMA, that person must be specifically authorised by a local authority under s38 of the RMA.

Once authorised, enforcement officers are provided with a warrant which sets out the functions and powers the particular person has been given. The holder is obliged to carry the warrant when exercising any function or power, and to produce it together with evidence of identity (usually incorporated into the warrant card by way of photograph) if required to do so. An example is the requirement to produce the warrant when exercising the power to enter private land under s332 of the RMA.

The types of people a local authority may authorise to be an enforcement officer are:

  • any of its officers

  • officers of another local authority, or of the Department of Conservation, or of Maritime New Zealand, subject to terms of appointment agreed between the authorities.

  • a security guard or employee of a security guard who meets the requirements of s38(2) of the RMA, but only in regard to s327 and s328 powers, which relate to excessive noise

Expiry of warrants

On termination of appointment, enforcement officers must surrender their warrant to the local authority.

Some local authorities issue warrant cards with an expiry date to avoid the unintended continuation of warrants after employees leave. However, this is not recommended as it requires procedures to be in place for ensuring that warrant cards are current. It is easier to bundle the surrender of warrants together with any other requirements (e.g., surrender of field equipment) relating to the termination of the employment period.