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RMA changes for renewable energy, climate change

RMA changes for renewable energy, climate change

The government is amending the Resource Management Act to give greater weight to the national benefits of renewable energy and to give a clearer mandate to consider the effects of climate change.

Energy Minister Pete Hodgson said the amendments would reflect the importance of energy and electricity supply in the government's Programme of Action on Sustainable Development. They would also help meet the renewable energy target set under the National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy. "The government is well aware of growing pressure on New Zealand's electricity generation capacity," Mr Hodgson said. "Renewable energy is one of the most effective and sustainable ways of meeting this demand."

The amendments will allow councils to give greater weight to renewable energy when considering resource consents. Key local and regional councils were consulted last year on the need for a stronger legislative mandate in this area.

"This change will smooth the path for renewable energy while retaining the necessary environmental safeguards," Environment Minister Marian Hobbs said. "The RMA will still require consideration and management of the environmental effects of renewable energy production." Amendments are likely to involve changes to sections 2 and 7 of the RMA, providing explicit national direction on the importance of renewable energy. The changes to the RMA will make it clear that improving energy efficiency is also a key national objective.

The government has already announced an amendment that will remove the requirement for regional councils to have regard to the global effects of greenhouse gas emissions through resource consents, as these will be managed by national climate change policies.

At the same time councils will be directed to have regard to the local effects of climate change (such as rising sea levels) when preparing or reviewing their plans or making decisions on resource consents.

"Councils are not explicitly required by current law to do this and they differ in the extent to which they do so," Marian Hobbs said.

"The RMA will be amended to refer explicitly to the need to manage the effects of climate change. Non-statutory guidance will be available at the time the amendment comes into force. If required, in due course we may introduce a National Policy Statement on climate change to provide binding statutory guidance.

"These changes will be given priority by government and we expect they will be passed into law in the latter part of this year," Marian Hobbs concluded.

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