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09, Jul, 2012

Widespread concern over proposed Resource Management Act changes


Category: News

There was widespread concern at the proposed changes to the Resource Management Act at the Environment and Conservation Organisations’ (ECO) Annual Conference which concluded today in Wellington.

ECO Spokesperson Barry Weeber said the changes proposed to the Act’s principles by the Technical Advisory Committee are a major assault on the protections for the environment under the Act, and are also likely to cause delays, confusion and increase costs.”ECO urges the Government not to accept these proposals.”

“The Principles are critical provisions of the Act.  They set out the requirements to protect what is special and unique about New Zealand.”

“The principles in section 6 currently include the requirement for protection of outstanding natural features and landscapes, the protection of significant indigenous vegetation and habitats, and preservation of natural character and the maintenance and enhancement of public access.”

Mr Weeber said the TAG proposes to remove the requirements to protect, preserve or maintain and enhance key qualities of the environment.  “They also propose to limit consideration to regionally significant values thus preventing national policy and standards of protection.”

“The group proposes removing the reference to intrinsic values of ecosystems, finite characteristics of resources, maintenance and enhancement of amenity values, and the ethic of stewardship.”

“The proposal to remove consideration intrinsic values show the TAG simply view the environment as a slave of people and ignores all that provide the wonder, beauty and inspiration from the environment.”

Barry Weeber said the proposed rewrite of the Principles of the Act would deeply wound environmental protection and was not required to strengthen the consideration of natural hazards under the Act.

“We agree with the need to consider natural hazards in Part II of the Act but this could be fixed with minor changes to the Act or the development of a national policy statement on national hazards.”

“Section 106 could be amended to make more explicit the ability of councils to refuse consents on land subject to liquefaction or similar earthquake effects.”

“These proposals will produce more uncertainty will and increase costs for all parties under the Act.  If these proposals were adopted by Parliament they would throw out case law that has been developed over the last 20 years and result in a decade of uncertainty.”

Mr Weeber said ECO was surprised that the Government had not called for submissions on the TAG Report to get wide views of civil society.  “The absence of a public process on an important public policy was deplored.”

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Notes:

1.    Section 6 and 7 of the Resource Management Act sets out the Principles of Act.

2.    Section 106 allows Councils to refuse subdivision consent in areas subject to natural hazards including: the land in respect of which a consent is sought, or any structure on the land, is or is likely to be subject to material damage by erosion, falling debris, subsidence, slippage, or inundation from any source

3.      Section 6 Matters of national importance

In achieving the purpose of this Act, all persons exercising functions and powers under it, in relation to managing the use, development, and protection of natural and physical resources, shall recognise and provide for the following matters of national importance:

(a) the preservation of the natural character of the coastal environment (including the coastal marine area), wetlands, and lakes and rivers and their margins, and the protection of them from inappropriate subdivision, use, and development:

(b) the protection of outstanding natural features and landscapes from inappropriate subdivision, use, and development:

(c) the protection of areas of significant indigenous vegetation and significant habitats of indigenous fauna:

(d) the maintenance and enhancement of public access to and along the coastal marine area, lakes, and rivers:

(e) the relationship of Maori and their culture and traditions with their ancestral lands, water, sites, waahi tapu, and other taonga:

(f) the protection of historic heritage from inappropriate subdivision, use, and development:

(g) the protection of protected customary rights.

4.      Section 7.     Other matters

In achieving the purpose of this Act, all persons exercising functions and powers under it, in relation to managing the use, development, and protection of natural and physical resources, shall have particular regard to—

(a) kaitiakitanga:

(aa) the ethic of stewardship:

(b) the efficient use and development of natural and physical resources:

(ba) the efficiency of the end use of energy:

(c) the maintenance and enhancement of amenity values:

(d) intrinsic values of ecosystems:

(f) maintenance and enhancement of the quality of the environment:

(g) any finite characteristics of natural and physical resources:

(h) the protection of the habitat of trout and salmon:

(i) the effects of climate change:

(j) the benefits to be derived from the use and development of renewable energy.

5.    Natural hazards could simply include in section 7 by adding: “Managing the significant risks associated with natural hazards”.

6.    The Minister for the Environment, Amy Adams stated in her speech to the Rio+20 UN meeting in Rio in June (Thursday, 21 June, 2012) that the Best outcomes emerge when governments engage civil society.”