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Government welcomes RMA Bill changes

20 June 2005 Media Statement
Government welcomes RMA Bill changes

Associate Environment Minister David Benson-Pope says he is pleased changes recommended by a select committee to legislation aimed at improving the Resource Management Act have not changed its intent.

"Labour is committed to a clean and healthy environment, and ensuring communities have say in environmental decision-making," said Mr Benson-Pope. "I think the select committee has clarified and strengthened this intent.

"I thank them for their hard work and the detailed analysis of the Bill and the 322 submissions that were received on it. It is clear from the submissions that much of the criticism of the Resource Management Act is outdated and overstated.“

Mr Benson-Pope pointed to the latest survey of RMA performance carried out by the Ministry for the Environment showing that 95 per cent of resource consents were processed without being publicly notified and only 1.2 per cent of decisions were appealed to the Environment Court. According to the 2004 Business New Zealand-KPMG Compliance Costs Survey average total environment-related compliance costs have decreased 39.2 per cent between 2003 and 2004 (from $12,928 in 2003 to $7,855 in 2004). KPMG attributed the reduced costs to 'improved implementation of the RMA by local authorities and increased resources for the Environment Court since 2001'.

"The proposed improvements to the RMA in this Bill give councils more tools to continue improving on this excellent work,“ said Mr Benson-Pope. "Inquisitorial-style hearings will make them more robust. Accredited decision-makers will improve hearings, reduce delays and increase certainty for everyone.

"National environmental standards are currently being developed for important network infrastructure. National environmental standards will provide certainty for communities and for companies that currently face a raft of different requirements from district to district."

Mr Benson-Pope highlighted the menu of options available to ministers when councils considered projects to be of national significance. These include joint council hearings; referral to a board of inquiry headed by an Environment Court judge; or, referral to the Environment Court itself. The select committee have not supported the concept of "direct referral", where any applicant could apply directly to the Environment Court to have their application heard there.

"There are those voices that continue to call for the RMA to be gutted for the sake haphazard development. I'm glad the majority of the select committee has rejected outright the view of this group," said Mr Benson-Pope.

ENDS

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