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Parliament’s last Act Sabotages RMA

Parliament’s last Act Sabotages RMA

Media Release – 4 August 2005 - Wellington

Changes to the Resource Management Act passed in Parliament last night put the interests of industry and state owned enterprises above the environmental concerns of mainstream New Zealanders.

“There is little in the Resource Management Act (RMA) changes passed in Parliament last night to help mainstream New Zealanders like the residents and business people of Petone who are having to cope with excessive lead pollution from the Exide factory,” said the Co Chair of Environment and Conservation Organisations of New Zealand (ECO) Cath Wallace.

“Last night’s vote in Parliament showed that most politicians are more interested in fast tracking major development than the environmental and community concerns of mainstream New Zealand,” Ms Wallace said.

“It’s disappointing that the last major Act of this Parliament was to undermine New Zealand’s main environmental law,” she said.

Under changes to National Environmental Standards passed in Parliament last night, central government will have the power to declare activities “controlled” meaning that no local authority would be allowed to decline an application for resource consent.

“A future government could use national environmental standards to ensure that power stations, transmission lines, coal mines and polluting factories all get the go-ahead, with local authorities being restricted to placing a few conditions on the schemes,” Ms Wallace said.

“We are however, pleased to see that accreditation of local authority decision makers and appeals on notification did get through Parliament last night. These will make a difference,” she said.

“We are surprised by the National Party’s vehement opposition to appeals on non-notification as it was their idea in the first place,” she said.

“ECO now calls on the Government immediately to take the steps needed to bring appeals on non-notification into effect. It would be a good sign of commitment to public participation,” she said.

Explanatory Note

The changes to National Environmental Standards introduce ‘absolute’ national environmental standards. As a consequence of this change, local authorities will generally not be allowed to set a higher level of environmental protection than the government. This is a major change as previously environmental standards were ‘bottom lines’ allowing local authorities to set a higher level of environmental protection than the government. There is a limited capacity for government to create exceptions to absolute standards.

Over 95% of resource consent applications are not publicly notified although many have significant environmental impacts and affect neighbours. Under the Resource Management Act, proposals that have significant environmental effects and which affect others must be notified, but there has been no right of appeal when local authorities unlawfully fail to notify resource consent applications.

Appeals on non-notification were included in the 1999 Resource Management Amendment Bill introduced by the National Government.

ENDS

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