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Forest And Bird Condemns Government Proposals Removing Environmental Protections

Forest & Bird has received a letter from Hon Chris Bishop, Minister for Resource Management Reform, setting out government plans for reforms to the resource management process and getting rid of safeguards for freshwater.

The government is proposing to push through drastic changes that will fundamentally weaken protection of our natural environment at a time when we are facing a climate and biodiversity crisis.

Nicola Toki, Forest & Bird CE says “The Government is setting themselves up to rush through any development without letting the public have their say, and without keeping nature safe. New Zealanders should be alarmed that our incredible natural environment is being treated with such disdain at a time when we’re facing such significant loss.

“This new legislation is completely unwarranted. Fast-track processes should be narrow, focussed and with safeguards in place. Instead, what’s proposed is extremely broad, where Ministers may essentially be able to decide what goes through the process.

“As a nation, we’ve lost over 90 percent of wetlands, 98 percent of our kahikatea forest, more than 75 percent of bird, bat, reptile and native fish species.

“We must stop this death by a thousand cuts – a new dump here, a new mine or marine farm there. Every time this happens, we lose more of our unique natural heritage – the very special places that so many New Zealanders have been enjoying over the summer months, the places that international tourists flock to see. These proposals are going to put at risk even more critically endangered species, remove even more kilometres of streams, and threaten more kiwi habitat. It’s not as if our environment is in great shape to start with.

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"The lack of transparency and opportunity for the New Zealand public to participate in these processes is the most shocking thing – this country has a long history of public process relating to proposals for developments which may impact the natural values that form part of our DNA in this country. This isn’t the New Zealand way.

"A recent independent survey commissioned by Forest & Bird demonstrates that one in three New Zealanders see Environment & Conservation as one of the top causes that matter most to them. This legislation not only chips away at our ability to protect our natural heritage, but at our very identity as a nation.

“We need to ask ourselves – do we want native birds flourishing, beaches and rivers you can swim in? Or do we want unfettered development and pollution? Let’s be clear here – these changes will enable private developers to go to Ministers directly for approvals - bypassing local communities and undermining the ability of people to have their voices heard. The scope of what can be fast-tracked is so broad that nothing is off the table – mining of conservation land and mining on the sea floor, vast marine farms, property developments, new dams and water storage. Ministers will be able to approve just about anything you can think of.

“Keeping nature safe means having democratic planning processes and solid environmental bottom lines. We are rightly proud of our environment, and we know how important it is to our economy and wellbeing. The moves outlined in the letter are completely at odds with this and who we are as a country.

"These proposals will not deliver the improvements that New Zealanders need and want. We are willing to engage with Ministers as this legislation is developed, but it will require significant changes to make it acceptable. We are open to measures that can enable fast-tracking but not at any cost. There are bottom lines that need to be maintained - our future wellbeing and prosperity rely on it.”

Link to Chris Bishop's letter

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