'Independent' means independent of the government of the day, so the PCE reports not to a Government Minister but to Parliament through:
- the Speaker of the House
- the Officers of Parliament Committee.
As an Officer of Parliament, the Commissioner's job is to hold the Government to account for its environmental policies and actions. The PCE is a policy reviewer standing outside the system of environmental management and reporting on it.
The Commissioner has wide powers to investigate and report on any matter where, in her opinion, the environment may be, or has been, adversely affected. Parliament or any parliamentary select committee may also ask her to report on environmental matters.