Home

11, Aug, 2013

National’s Removal of Environmental Protections will Inflame Reputational Damage to New Zealand


Category: ECO Inc

The National Party’s decision to announce the removal of critical environmental protection Principles from the Resource Management Act will further inflame international doubts about the credibility of New Zealand’s 100% pure promotion, says the Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ, ECO.

ECO Co-chair Cath Wallace, said the changes to the RMA principles removed many key protection elements.  “It is astounding that National thinks it is a good idea to remove the obligation under the RMA to have particular regard to the maintenance and enhancement of the quality of the environment, the finiteness of resources, the ethic of stewardship, and the intrinsic values of ecosystem.”

Cath Wallace said it is like trumpeting to the world that the government does not care about the quality of the environment or limits to use of resources.

“China, India, the UK, USA and other countries are already scrutinising New Zealand’s environmental and food safety claims – this seems calculated to confirm our markets’ suspicions that our claims are false and there is little commitment to improve them.”

“Actually most New Zealanders do care a lot about the environment, and the need to retain the Principles of the RMA as they are, and most submitters support the need to keep the Act as an environmental management Act, not an economic Act.

“The Ministry for the Environment summary of submissions shows that 99% of submitters opposed or expressed serious concern about the changes to the principles of the Act.

“To make matters worse, National proposes to add in lop-sided economic considerations such as the benefits but not costs of the use of resources.  This is economic as well as environmental lunacy.”

Cath Wallace said the changes to Part II of the Act will only increase litigation costs as the courts try to work out what the new provisions mean and how they should be applied.

A change to make subdivision a permitted activity unless they are restricted by a plan will further undermine the “preservation of the natural character of the coastal environment” and “protection of outstanding natural features and landscapes”.

Cath Wallace said it was unclear how council could prevent or control subdivisions in areas of natural hazards under this change.  “ECO supported the addition of natural hazards to principles of the Act.”

Cath Wallace said the raft of changes being put forward are mostly little changed from what was proposed in the earlier discussion paper.  “This is disappointing.  It shows that the government is not listening to people and societies.”

Cath Wallace said the Government had failed to progress national policy statement and standards which would have assisted councils and communities in application of the Act.

The National Policy Statement on Biodiversity and the National Standards on Forestry were consulted on several years ago but there is no commitment to progress them.

 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Notes

1.  There were 13,277 submissions were received on the Ministry for the Environment discussion document on proposed changes to the RMA.

“Submitters in general commented that:

  • issues and proposals set out in the discussion document do not appear to be well researched or developed, and little evidence is provided to support them
  • the timeframe for consultation and submission was very short – these submissions expressed a general concern that the reform process was being rushed
  • they wished to be involved in future development of the proposals outlined in the discussion document (this was particularly noted in submissions from councils and iwi groups).” 

From Ministry for the Environment Summary of Submissions (page 10).

 2.  Removed from the proposed Principles are:

(aa) the ethic of stewardship:

(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:

 

3.  RMA as it is now can be seen at:

http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1991/0069/latest/whole.html#DLM231907

4.  The New Proposals can be seen at:

http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/rma/resource-management-summary-reform-proposals.html