The new Environmental Protection Authority came into operation on Friday, signalling what the Government says is stronger leadership on resource management questions.
The authority replaces the Environmental Risk Management Authority.
At an opening function in Parliament on Thursday night, Environment Minister Nick Smith said that having one national regulator for environmental matters was better than having the same issues re-litigated in 78 councils.
The authority's responsibilities include the regulation of hazardous substances and new and genetically-modified organisms, and the assessment of environmental effects in Antarctica.
It will also manage the emissions trading scheme and take over consenting in the exclusive economic zone from July next year.