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Māori Party Have Serious Concerns With Proposed RMA Reform Bill

The Māori Party are raising serious concerns about the new COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-Track Consenting Bill) announced by the Government today.

The Bill provides a fast track consenting regime, bypassing the Resource Management Act, to ensure “shovel ready” projects which can generate jobs and economic activity are dealt with by special hearings panels, including handpicked projected listed in the Bill.

“While the Māori Party acknowledges we must lift our economic opportunities we caution that progress should not compromise the environment or our rights as Te Tiriti partners,” said Māori Party Co-leader and Te Tai Hauāuru candidate Debbie Ngarewa-Packer.

“We are concerned that the fast-tracking significantly reduces the opportunity for hapū, iwi and our wider communities to have a say in the process. The State of the Environment Report highlighted the consequences of climate change and the environmental degradation and that the rights of hapū and iwi as partners to Te Tiriti should have utmost priority.

“There is nothing in this Bill that really says to us that the Government’s objective to stimulate the economy will be met for Māori; more discussion with Māori on the specific projects listed in the Bill is needed; before automatic approval to proceed.

“The approach needed should be a genuine partnership given the impacts of COVID-19 on Māori communities in respect of jobs and economic security. Its returning to the old political era where one Minister for Environment will hold all the power for approving a project to follow the new fast tract consent path. This could put at risk existing agreements already in place protecting Māori decision-making rights. Equally there appears nothing to protect land for iwi that have yet to settle which means settlements could be put at risk.

“One of the most alarming aspects of this Bill is the permitted works that are allowed on public land such as the road and rail corridor, with nationwide standards being applied. No one in communities will have any say on these projects and the Minister can decide to extend these powers to local government. We are really worried about the potential for a modern-day land grab by government and local government agencies.

“We acknowledge the work of the National Iwi Leaders Group who worked over a three-week period with Government officials on this Bill. However, many more changes to this Bill are still needed to ensure we have a sustainable future focused planning response to COVID-19 that is built on an active partnership with Māori and local communities,” said Mrs Ngarewa-Packer.

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