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Communicating Environmental, Safety and Health Law to Small Businesses in New Zealand: The Fundamental Missing Link

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posted on 12.11.2021, 11:09 by Louisson, Michael

The majority of small New Zealand businesses do not understand their environmental, safety and health protection responsibilities. This is the finding of recent research, including that of the New Zealand Occupational Safety and Health Service (Bateman, 1999:19). The same problem was identified some 30 years ago by Lord Robens in the United Kingdom (Robens, 1972). Without a sound understanding, businesses can not properly meet their obligations to comply with environmental, safety and health statutes, such as the Dangerous Goods Regulations 1958, Resource Management Act 1991, Building Act 1991 and the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. There are 63 environmental and safety statutes, which have a total of 3,993 pages. It is estimated that this total is growing at about 300 pages per year. The same level of understanding is required irrespective of organisation size. Larger companies are normally able to establish policies, sections, committees, club memberships, training programmes and effective systems to meet their needs. Somehow small businesses must understand the same law, but without the majority of the tools and resources available to larger companies. Small businesses therefore need a particularly effective communications process, which appears to be beyond their scope to develop; and therefore provides a worthy research topic. The research identifies the fundamental missing link in the compliance chain, as hypothesised by Mayhew (Mayhew, 1997:44), to be communication of law, and develops a customised compliance handbook to ease understanding of the law. The handbook concept was tested with seven small businesses involving land survey, hardware retail, car repair, petrol dispensing, electroplating, fast food supply and shipping. These case studies show the handbook is an effective way to inform small New Zealand businesses of their responsibilities under environmental and safety law. The research also identifies the need for industry based 'champions' to coach small businesses to achieve the required standard.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Environmental Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Environmental Studies

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Willis, Richard