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Weakening the RMA is a major health risk


Weakening the RMA is a major health risk

University of Otago Senior Lecturer in Environmental Health Dr Alex Macmillan comments on the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill before Parliament:

“The Resource Management Act (RMA) is as much a health protection law as an environmental one, as important as the Health Act for preventing serious illness caused by pollution. Pushing on with the multiple amendments designed to weaken resource management, despite widespread opposition, is playing with fire.

“In a timely and commendable report released last week by the Ministry for the Environment, it was made clear that interference by local councillors in the enforcement of RMA resource consents is widespread. Practices include interfering in the work of enforcement officers to delay or avoid investigating alleged pollution breaches by industries and individuals. Interference appears to be both out of self interest and because of chronic underfunding of monitoring and compliance in many councils.

“The amendments to the RMA that are back before Parliament will only worsen this problem – weakening processes by which the public can be involved in protecting our own health, and by narrowing further the people who are allowed to have an interest in proposals.

“Resource consents and their enforcement are there to ensure that people don’t get sick from pollution of the air we breathe, the water we drink and the soil we grow our food in. The recent outbreak of campylobacter from drinking water in Havelock North was a wake up call to the scale of illness that such pollution can cause.

“When local body politicians put self interest before the protection of their community’s health by interfering in the enforcement of resource consent conditions, it is a harmful abuse of entrusted power for private gain that requires full investigation. Strengthening the involvement of a wide range of interests, appropriate prosecution processes for corruption and making the role of the RMA in community health more explicit are all needed to ensure the RMA works to protect the environmental building blocks for health.”

ends

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