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"Think Big 2" RMA Bill shuts out public

2 December 2004

"Think Big 2" RMA Bill shuts out public

The Government wants to fundamentally change the Resource Management Act to shut the public out.

"It will do this by allowing central government to override local decision making and by giving new powers to local authorities to shut out the public," said Forest and Bird's Conservation Manager Kevin Hackwell responding to the major law change tabled in Parliament today.

"Local communities need to organise in opposition to the Resource Management Amendment Bill or face losing important rights. The new powers will force major infrastructure proposals onto unwilling local communities," he said.

"When the review was announced, the Government told the public that it was just a 'tune up' and that they would protect 'good environmental outcomes' and 'public participation'. Instead the Government has tabled an amazing 'Think Big' power grab, he said.

"The new powers will enable the Government to fast-track major projects like hydro-electricity schemes, transmission lines, coal mines and new prisons," he said.

The Resource Management Amendment Bill:

* Gives Central Government wider powers to fast-track major projects * Prevents the Environment Court from hearing appeals on fast-tracked major projects * Gives Central Government new powers to force rewrites of district and regional plans against the wishes of local communities and district and regional councils * Scales back the Environment Court's role in decision making * Creates new powers that partisan local authorities will be able to use to undermine and strike out submissions * Does not give submitters the right to appeal abuses of these new processes.

"Yesterday, the Environment Court slated the Hastings District Council for taking an 'uncompromisingly partisan' approach in favour of billionaire Julian Robertson's proposed development at Cape Kidnappers," Mr Hackwell said.

"The Environment Court only had the chance to overturn the Hastings District Council because the community was able to be involved in the process. Under the proposed changes, the Council could simply have booted objectors out of the process," he said.

"The Government should not be introducing new RMA powers for local authorities at a time when some councils cannot be trusted to act impartially. The proposal to allow council hearing panels to strike out submissions from objectors is completely unacceptable while councils act in a partisan manner," he said.

"Landowners affected by the controversial proposed North Island electricity upgrade could be the first to feel the brunt of central government's new 'Think Big' fast-track powers. The upgrade of transmission lines into Auckland was named on the list of 39 possible candidates for non-local decision making in a draft Ministry for the Environment paper on the RMA Review in June 2004," he said.

"If the Government powers in this Bill are used for the Auckland electricity transmission upgrade, local landowners affected by the proposed upgrade will lose their rights to appeal designations over their land in the Environment Court," he said.

More detailed analysis of the Bill will follow.

ENDS

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