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Sea change in direction by Local Government

Wednesday, July 28th, 2004

Sea change in direction by Local Government over RMA applauded

The dramatic sea change in thinking over the Resource Management Act by New Zealand's local authorities is most welcome, the Employers & Manufacturers Association (Northern) says.

"Local Government New Zealand's report to Environment Minister David Benson-Pope yesterday on the changes needed to the RMA and its implementation has picked up on community-wide concerns, including those of business," said Alasdair Thompson, EMA's chief executive.

"Government can't afford to ignore these views.

"Local government previously appeared to defend the status quo with regard to the RMA but is now advocating much of what business has been recommending for several years.

"But unlike Local Government New Zealand, business sees the need for greater urgency, clarity and focus on remedying the RMA's implementation. The generalisations of some of the LGNZ recommendations should be hardened up.

For example, in recognising the special role of Maori interests, and to make it easier for their participation as well as for developers, a register and map of iwi and hapu interests for each area should be drawn up.

"Another example is in order to reduce the huge number of consents each year, about 49,000 annually, a system of tradeable permits (like the fish quota system) should be introduced for such as air emissions, water useage and geothermal emissions.

"Likewise national policy statements and standards would also reduce the number of hearings required.

"Unlike LGNZ, we also want larger councils that are better resourced to address the RMA consent and other processes.

"Nonetheless LGNZ and business are close to agreeing on:
* the importance of National Standards and National Policy Statements;
* the introduction of independent expert commissioners to rule on specialised, technical matters;
* the removal of full de novo appeal hearings, and
* the involvement of central government in regional issues, not just the Department of Conservation.

"The Ministerial Taskforce on Business Compliance in 2001 made 56 recommendations to address the resource and time wasting being caused by the RMA, so there are plenty of things we can do to streamline the effectiveness of the RMA."


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