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RMA Changes For the Worse

11 March 2005

RMA Changes For the Worse

Proposed changes to the Resource Management Act will make the already flawed law worse for rural New Zealand, said John Aspinall of Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc).

“The law change need a thorough revamp to ensure that private and local interests will be properly balanced against national interests,” Mr Aspinall told the Local Government and Environment select committee.

The committee is hearing submissions on the Resource Management and Electricity Legislation Amendment Bill. One of the bill's objectives is to enable central government to better express the 'national interest', so decision makers have clear guidance on how to take the national interest into account.

“Farmers are very concerned that the bill makes much of the so-called ‘national interest’, but doesn't define what it is. Little mention is made of the importance of private and local interests," said Mr Aspinall, the federation's spokesman on resource management.

"There is a clear need to achieve balance between national, local and private interests and to compensate private interests taken for the national good.

“For our members, their own particular private and local interests are very important, even when compared to the national interest. The bill should place much more emphasis on the importance of local interests. At the moment the ‘national interest’ seems to be whatever the Minister for the Environment declares it to be. The definition of national interest, whatever it is, must be spelt out in the bill."

He added that new powers granted to the minister are far too broad and unconstrained.

“The bill gives the minister powers to intervene in what has until now been local decision making, as well as powers to issue directives to councils.

“These powers are far too wide ranging. There is no requirement on the minister to bear any costs incurred by councils as a result of a directive, carry out a cost benefit analysis, or give reasons for issuing a directive.

“The new emphasis on 'national interest' and the extra ministerial powers seem designed to allow government to force through pet projects without proper local participation in decisions. This is unacceptable."

Mr Aspinall is a Federated Farmers' National Board member and High Country farmer.

ENDS

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