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RMA Changes Undermine Environmental Protection

Thursday 28 February 2013

Resource Management Act Changes Undermine Environmental Protection and Introduce Uncertainty

Government proposed changes to the Resource Management Act will undermine environmental protection and introduce uncertainty, the Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ (ECO) says.

“The changes to the RMA would strike at the heart of the environmental protection objective of the RMA and the obligation on people to look after the future when they do economic activities”, says Cath Wallace, co-chair of the Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ, ECO.

ECO was responding to the discussion paper released by the Minister for the Environment, Amy Adams, today

“The paper proposes to remove four important principles from the Act. The Minister wants to remove principles to: maintain the quality of the environment; the ethic of stewardship; the protection of amenity values; and any consideration of the finite characteristics of natural and physical resources.”

“These changes undermines the protection of the environment in a fundamental way”, says Cath Wallace.

“The government is moving right away from the idea that we need to protect the environment as an underpinning requirement. Instead these changes would allow the environment to be sacrificed when short term economic benefits are high, even if irreversible damage to the environment results.”

This would be a huge loss to the present and the future, but of course it is attractive to those looking for short term gains.

“The Government is also continuing its moves to take powers from local government and to give it to itself. The government intends to direct Councils what to put in plans and what objectives should be. “This further over-rides local democracy.”

Cath Wallace said there was also a ongoing disturbing trend to reduce the role of the Environment Court in RMA decisions. “This is leading to a greater politisation of decisions by removing the neutral arbiter from decisions.”

Cath Wallace said Ministers could achieve national consistency if they simply used existing tools such as the National Environmental Standards and the National Policy Statements.

“The Government needs to better resource the Ministry for the Environment to produce these standards and policies, and to give more resources to the Environment Court.”

“There is a lot of rhetoric in the document about increasing certainty, but the proposals for combining the principles to be applied, in sections 6 and 7, will simply remove the guidance for everyone as to how considerations are to be ranked,” says Wallace

“There has been too much focus on the speed of decisions rather than looking at the quality of those decisions and the environmental outcomes.”

“A few of the changes that are some suggested would indeed help people, but overall the effect of the proposals will be to reduce the ability of affected people to have a fair say, while the applicants for activities or plan changes are going to be advantaged.”

“The environment will lose out while short term economic activities are promoted.”

“The government is sacrificing the interests of people who are affected by activities, the future, the quality of the environment and the environmental quality and capital on which ultimately we all depend.”

“The removal of amenity values and the ethic of stewardship principles show how little they care for the future and the quality of life,” said Wallace.

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