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Labour opposes RMA changes

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Labour environment spokesperson Dianne Yates said the Government's amendments to the Resource Management Act will harm the environment and do not address the real problem with resource management: a lack of guidance for local councils from central government.

"Labour supports making the Resource Management Act more effective and efficient but not at the expense of the environment. It is clear that the amendments do not meet the Minister's criterion of reducing compliance costs without reducing environmental outcomes.

"The amendments would create a contestable consent process. The effect would be to create a new industry of advisers who would suggest ways to beat environmental laws. This is a negative approach to environmental sustainability when the original RMA was positive in its approach.

"The adviser getting the most work will be the one with a track record of getting around the environmental protections contained in the RMA.

"Most of the submissions received were opposed to this change, including those from iwi groups, environmental organisations, the NZ Planning Institute and individual submitters.

"A majority of submitters, including some from industry, did not believe the proposal will achieve its stated objective of decreasing time delays and costs. In fact, costs would increase because consent processors would still have to charge full costs, hold liability insurance and make a profit. Most local bodies charge much less than this.

"Simon Upton wants to move away from a major principal of the RMA - informed negotiation and consultation between councils and their local communities. His proposals will result in a more litigious and ultimately more expensive framework.

"The Minister has failed to address the real problem with the Act: a lack of central government guidance.

"National policy statements and environmental standards are fundamental to making the RMA work. In most disputes, the legislation is not the problem, but the way it is implemented. This comes back to the Government's failure to give local bodies the guidance they need.

"The next Labour Government will make national policy statements and environmental standards a priority, to assist nation-wide consistency in the administration of the Act," Dianne Yates said.

"After months of procrastinating, Simon Upton is now introducing the RMA amendments under urgency. Some technical changes would improve the efficiency of the Act. But major structural changes, like contestable consent processes, would destroy the intention and the principles of the RMA.

"The Minister, as is typical of his Government, is panicking.

"He is trying to throw the baby out with the bath water."

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