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Greens want RMA amended to protect all rivers

Greens want RMA amended to protect all rivers

Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says fresh water is now as precious as "clear gold" and has begun a campaign to get the vital resource properly managed before further conflict arises.

The Greens have begun the campaign because of uncertainty over the fate of the special legislation drawn up to manage the Waitaki River in the face of the extreme demands of the now-defunct Project Aqua.

Ms Fitzsimons has sent a discussion document to regional councils, iwi and other groups with a known interest in river protection to get input into a Member's bill on the issue. At the moment, the Resource Management Act (RMA) gives regional councils the option of drawing up regional plans which may include plans for water. However, the Greens propose that planning for river catchments should be mandatory.

"Water is rapidly becoming a scarce resource in many parts of New Zealand and we are starting to see a Gold Rush-attitude towards it from both irrigation and hydro projects," said Ms Fitzsimons, the Green Party Spokesperson on Energy and Conservation.

"The RMA is designed to decide applications for consent against big picture policies and rules in a plan. But for many applications to take water from rivers, there is no plan in place.

"We must never again face an application to take most of the water out of a river when there is no plan in place for that river and its surrounding land use. It is too late to plan once an application like that is received. So I have invited feedback on whether and how mandatory planning should be required to prevent the Aqua situation happening again.

"As a result of the work we did on the Waitaki Bill and the withdrawal of Project Aqua it has become clear that many rivers are at risk, not just the Waitaki. It would be illogical to proceed with special legislation for one river when others are facing the same issues. However some of the work done for the Waitaki Bill may well be suitable to include in this bill.

"Happily, recent work on integrated catchment management combines land and water planning and is particularly suitable for regional plans," said Ms Fitzsimons.

The discussion document will be available on the Green Party web site from Monday.

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