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User-Friendly Guide And Cheque For RMA Support

Fifty thousand dollars and a new 'easy to use' guide to the Resource Management Act were a good start to improving understanding of the RMA, the Minister for the Environment, Marian Hobbs, said today.

The minister will launch the new guide - The Resource Management Act and You: Getting in on the Act - at a function at the Auckland City Council today. The guide aims to demystify the RMA for the average New Zealander.

"There is a real concern that people don't understand what the Resource Management Act is and why we need it," Marian Hobbs said. "People know even less about how it affects them or what they should do when it does. This down-to-earth guide, should go some way to overcoming this."

A Ministry survey late last year showed that while many people have heard of the RMA (79 percent), few understood it well or had participated in it. People were also confused about the roles of city, district, and regional councils.

The guide uses plain language and examples to outline the basics of the Act and the opportunities for people to become involved.

The Resource Management Act and You: Getting in on the Act is publicly available at all councils, community law centres, Citizens Advice Bureaus, BizInfo centres and from the Ministry for the Environment.

Marian Hobbs will also present the Grey Lynn Neighbourhood Law Office with a $50,000 cheque to fund a resource management advisory service.

Through the Environment Ministry's Environmental Legal Assistance funding scheme, the law office is one of the first successful applicants for resource management education and advisory services grants.

"This funding provides an avenue for the public to obtain free or low-cost advice about a planning issue when they first get involved - rather than at the end when the cost of the process is higher," Marian Hobbs said.

Media Information: key findings from RMA survey

In an attempt to understand what the public think of the RMA, the Ministry for the Environment commissioned a pilot telephone survey late last year. The survey was designed to gauge the current level of understanding of the Act in New Zealand, and also respondents’ attitudes to the Act based on their actual experiences with it.

Key findings are:

- The research found that there is a high level of awareness of the Resource Management Act among the public (79% had heard of it before). Most of these people had a basic understanding that the purpose of the Act is to manage or protect the environment.

- 47% of respondents believed the Act provided adequate protection for the environment, 42% were unsure, while 11% did not consider the Act provided very good protection for the environment.

- People indicated that district/city councils would be the first place they would go to seek advice about an environmental issue. Regional councils rated second. Department of Conservation, Citizens Advice Bureau and Ministry for the Environment were also mentioned.

- Some confusion existed among respondents relating to which council (district/city or regional) are responsible for managing components of the environment, particularly land use and water.

- Interestingly, 15% of those surveyed had been directly involved with the Act, either by making a submission or applying for a resource consent. Many people stated that it was a positive experience for them. Suggestions were offered as to how to improve the process, including improve the sort of information that is available, make it less costly, and make the process more flexible.

- Reasons from people who stated they would not become involved in resource management processes included lack of interest, lack of knowledge, did not believe they would be listened to, and lack of time.

Copies of the full survey report can be downloaded from the Ministry’s website at the following address: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/management/practitioner.htm. Alternatively hard copies are available from the Ministry.

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