Last night, Greenpeace and other civil society groups received a letter from the new RMA reform Minister, Chris Bishop, outlining the Government’s plans to repeal, replace and override the nation’s environmental protections.
Greenpeace Aotearoa Executive Director Russel Norman has publicly released the letter, saying that New Zealanders have a right to know of the new Government’s destructive plans for freshwater and nature.
"The government is taking a chainsaw to New Zealand’s environmental protection laws," says Norman.
"The destructive plans laid out in this letter will lead to dirtier rivers, more contaminated drinking water and the loss of precious biodiversity."
The letter outlines the Government’s plan to introduce a new permanent fast-track consenting bill before March 7. The bill will override the RMA, which Greenpeace says will allow commercial projects to be rubber-stamped without due process and consideration of the impacts on the environment.
It appears there will be few, if any, avenues for public or environmental organisations to challenge the consenting of these commercial projects under the new law. Instead, the project will go to an expert panel which will be given ‘limited ability to decline a project.’
"Luxon’s government is trying to take us back to the bad old days and erase decades of work by the public, iwi, and civil society to protect freshwater and the environment in one fell swoop," says Norman.
"If the government wants to try and bring back big irrigation schemes through this bill, like the Ruataniwha dam, they are going to have a serious battle on their hands. New Zealanders have mobilised in their thousands to fight for clean rivers, and we will do so again."
The letter also outlines another new bill to be introduced later in the year to get rid of Te Mana o Te Wai, which is the hierarchy of prioritisation of the health of rivers and the needs of people before the commercial use of water which is used in current consenting processes.
"Everyone should be able to swim in clean rivers and access safe drinking water," says Norman. "The current freshwater rules and Te Mana o te Wai are crucial to making sure that is a reality for all New Zealanders."
"This Government's plan to ditch the freshwater protections and Te Mana o Te Wai is a direct attack on the country’s already seriously polluted rivers, lakes and drinking water."
Greenpeace is vowing to fight the new bills and is calling on the Government to drop its anti-nature agenda.