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Environmental policies and standards on the agenda

2 August 2005

New national environmental policies and standards on the agenda

The government is planning a range of national policy statements on electricity and telecommunications infrastructure, as well as new national standards for environmental health, Environment Minister Marian Hobbs said today.

The Ministry for the Environment is developing a range of national policy statements and environmental standards in collaboration with other government departments, stakeholders and local government. This is to ensure greater consistency of decision making throughout the country under the Resource Management Act. The proposed package of standards follows the introduction of 14 standards for air quality and toxic materials last year, the first in 13 years under the RMA.

"National policy statements and national standards are provided for under the RMA, but these powers haven't been used until relatively recently," Marian Hobbs said.

"The review of the RMA has highlighted the need for government to look at a range of topics and provide help to councils making difficult decisions on projects that affect the whole country.

"National policy on contentious topics such as electricity generation should help to set a standard for construction and operation. Central government will work with local government to make workable standards."

The range of topics to be looked at over the coming year could include electricity generation, electricity transmission, telecommunication facilities, land transport noise, and the protection of rare and depleted indigenous vegetation. The government's Sustainable Water Programme of Action could also lead to other standards being considered. One of the issues to be considered is whether to use policy statements or environmental standards, or even both for some of these topics.

"We will be releasing drafts progressively for discussion this year and next year, and the public will have the opportunity to have their say before we decide if they will become law," Marian Hobbs said.

"Land contamination is one standard being considered. While no one argues that we shouldn't repair contaminated land, we need a national approach on what exactly 'uncontaminated' means.

"Work is also well underway to develop a standard that will give councils the ability to ensure that water entering a public water treatment plant from a catchment area is safe enough to be treated by that plant.

"The ministry has been working with local government, the Ministry of Health and technical experts to develop a proposed human drinking water source standard and will soon be going out to the wider public for their views."

The ministry is also working with water and waste experts to develop a standard for biosolids, such as treated sewage sludge used as soil conditioners.

National environmental standards and policy statements will be a topic covered as part of the ministry's national Talk Environment Roadshow, scheduled for October this year.

ENDS

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