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Benson-Pope confirms environmentalists' RMA fears

16 September 2004 - Wellington

Benson-Pope confirms environmentalists' RMA fears

RMA Minister David Benson-Pope has confirmed the fears of environmentalists in media comments reported this morning. Mr Benson-Pope has admitted that the national interest could over-ride environmental concerns under proposed changes to the RMA.

"The Minister's admission reported this morning confirms our analysis of the proposed changes to the RMA. These changes will foist environmentally damaging "Think Big" developments onto unwilling communities," said Forest and Bird spokesperson Geoff Keey.

"We were concerned from day one of the review that a change in the balance between what the Government calls local and national interest was actually about allowing the proponents of major "Thing Big" projects to override environmental considerations," he said.

"Throughout the review the Government has been at pains to reaffirm its commitment to good environmental outcomes and public participation. How can the Government say that while also saying that the national interest may override environmental considerations," he said.

"Talking about 'local environmental effects' may make them sound insignificant, but most environmental damage is local whether it is the destruction of local rivers or the pollution of local air and water," he said.

"This is a return to the outdated "Think Big" thinking of Robert Muldoon and Bill Birch when major projects were promoted in the national interest, overriding the environment and ultimately common sense," he said.

Note:

Mr Benson-Pope reported in the New Zealand Herald 16 September 2004

Associate Environment Minister David Benson-Pope said he expected applicants seeking to call in decisions would include state-owned enterprises with big projects to advance.

Asked if local environmental concerns might have to give way to the national interest, he said: "It is not inconceivable that in major nationwide infrastructural projects, the national interest might be the predominant factor."

ENDS

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