Labour and Greens have backed the selection of former National MP Simon Upton as the new environment watchdog, saying he is the best person for the job and has shown he can be critical of his former party.

Upton is set to become the next Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment following a recommendation by a committee of MPs yesterday.

Upton, who left Parliament in 2001, was a National MP for 20 years and held the environmental portfolio for nine years. He is now head of the OECD's environment directorate, based in Paris.

Just one party, New Zealand First, objected to his appointment because they felt it was political.


Labour MP Trevor Mallard, who was on the selection committee, said he did not share New Zealand First's concerns.

Upton was the "clear-cut choice" out of the candidates, he said.

"He's known as someone that is very thorough, who is intellectually honest, and will be quite demanding to any government in the area."

Another committee member, Green MP David Clendon, said Upton was a "good choice" for the PCE role and he was confident the former minister would be independent.

"Obviously he is a former National MP and minister but the work he's done suits the task."

Clendon cited Upton's previous work in helping to draft the Resource Management Act and holding New Zealand to account on its environmental record at the OECD.

The OECD department led by Upton released a hard-hitting report on New Zealand's environmental performance last week. The report said New Zealand's economic model had reached its environmental limits and that the country was at risk of harming its green reputation.

The PCE position is currently held by Jan Wright, who is serving her second five-year term.


Wright, who was nominated for the Herald's New Zealander of the Year award in 2012, has earned a reputation for being outspoken and uncompromising on environmental issues, especially climate change and water quality.

She has also angered some parts of the environmental movement by advocating greater use of the toxic poison 1080 to control pests and by not taking a harder stance on fracking.

The PCE, who is assisted by 20 staff, can initiate its own investigations but is also required to submit on environmental legislation, peer review regular reports on the state of the environment, and brief Parliament on environmental issues.

Upton will take over the job in October.