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Forest & Bird against undermining of environment in RMA

November 2, 2011 – Wellington

Forest & Bird against undermining of environment in RMA

Independent conservation organisation Forest & Bird said today it is concerned that the National Party has announced a policy that would undermine the Resource Management Act’s most important environmental protections.

The inclusion in the policy, released earlier today, of revised decision-making criteria in sections 6 and 7 of the Act were given a low profile in the press release that accompanied the policy announcement.

Environment Minister Nick Smith says changes are needed to require decision-makers to consider risks from natural hazards, such as earthquakes and liquefaction, and he also wants urban growth to be better managed.

The Act may require some changes to address these issues but this must be done without undermining the environmental priorities, Forest & Bird Conservation Advocate Claire Browning said.

Section 6 is about protecting our national natural treasures, such as coastal character, outstanding natural landscapes, and the habitats of native species.

“Referring to natural hazards or urban growth would be totally out of place. Dealing with these should not require any changes to section 6, so we wonder if there are other reasons for the revisions,” she said.

Claire Browning also noted that a review of those sections had been on the agenda since well before the first Christchurch earthquake and a technical advisory group was appointed to review them in January 2010.

Any proposals to undermine the protection given by these important sections in the legislation would be strongly opposed by Forest & Bird.

The proposals would also not be supported by the majority of New Zealanders as shown in a TV3 poll released this week, which revealed voters consider the natural environment to be the top issue in the 2011 election.

Forest & Bird welcomed the RMA policy’s move to progress the 51 recommendations of the Land and Water Forum, and its support for encouraging more collaborative processes.

Another of the policies is to put a time limit of six months on the consenting of ‘medium-sized’ projects.

“Such tight time limits may mean that the full impacts of a proposal may not be properly considered and may have the unintended consequence of leading to a greater number of appeals to the Environment Court.”, Claire Browning said.

Note: Section 6 of the Resource Management Act is here: http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1991/0069/latest/DLM231907.html#DLM231907

ENDS

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