RMA Bill - victory for common sense over ideology
8 May 2001
The Green Party is delighted that after a year's work by the select committee and 400 submissions, the Resource Management Amendment Bill has been reported back to Parliament in a form that will help, rather than hinder environmental management.
The bill was introduced by National Minister Simon Upton in response to claims from business about cost and delay. But the committee also heard submissions from communities about their lack of input into developments.
Green Party Co-leader and chair of the select committee Jeanette Fitzsimons described the outcome as a victory for common sense over ideology.
"I am pleased we have been able to streamline procedures to save cost and time without compromising the environment and the rights of the public to participate. For example we've made it clear that when a council asks for more information, the statutory time for hearing the application does not go back to the beginning.
"We have also allowed councils to send summaries of very long decisions, followed by the whole decision if requested," she said. "These are applied common sense."
Ms Fitzsimons also said major attacks on public participation in the RMA process and environmental outcomes in the original bill have now gone. For example: developers will not be allowed to choose private consultants to process their applications instead of the council; and there will be no reduction in notification requirements because the committee is not convinced the requirement that the effects be minor is observed.
"We have also made some significant improvements to the Act to improve Council processes and encourage government to provide much needed guidance to Councils," she said.
Communities will now be able to appeal to the Environment Court, rather than the High Court, against non-notification of applications when councils try to cut them out of the debate.
"The process by which environmental standards affects plans and consents has been clarified which means we are now likely to get some standards which provide valuable guidance to councils and save them all having to reinvent the wheel," she said.
"The process for National Policy Statements has been shortened and streamlined without cutting out public input and we hope the Government will issue some NPS to guide councils further," said Ms Fitzsimons.
E-government also features in the committee report. The Bill allows copies of decisions to be posted electronically to libraries and websites, while still providing paper copies for those without electronic access.