10, Mar, 2015

Resource Management Law Changes threatened Kauri

Category: ECO Inc

Land owner attempts to destroy 500 year kauri and other native trees is an example of changes to the resource law between 2009 and 2013 which undermine urban tree protection, and it will get worse, the Environment and Conservation Organisations said today.

ECO Spokesperson, Cath Wallace said environmental protection should be a corner stone of the Resource Management Act but changes already made will see more urban trees destroyed and other natural areas threatened.

“Nick Smith, Minister for the Environment, has said that the government wants to give more primacy to private property rights and housing.”

“Here we see that the environment is to be sacrificed already, on the basis of changes that the government made to the RMA in 2009-2013 to remove generalized protection for urban trees.  Instead it required District Plans to specify every particular tree group of trees before these can be protected.”

“The government also wants to change the Principles of the RMA to similarly require that significant natural areas and landscapes also have to be specified before they will be protected, to elevate property rights, and to remove Principles that protect the environment.”

“The commentary from the Auckland local government official who called allowing a private owner to fell these old native trees “balance” of property rights and trees is extraordinary but closely matches the rhetoric of ministers,” said Cath Wallace.

“It is hard to see “balance” when a 500 year old tree which saw many Maori generations pass before Europeans arrived, is felled for a couple of house sites.  It is clearly possible to build a house here without felling this tree.”

“Sadly, we will see much more of this destruction as people take advantage of the removal of protections of trees.

“ECO condemns the failure of the Council to publicly notify this resource consent and applauds those in Auckland who are trying to keep the chainsaws at bay.”

“Bad as this situation is, we will see much more environmental damage if the governments further changes to the RMA go ahead”, says Cath Wallace.



The Government’s 2013 discussion document outlines the changes intended.  Environment Minister Nick Smith’s subsequent statements seem to be still consistent with these these modified principles from the RMA that limit protection of the environment to only specified areas and remove major environmental protection principles:

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

(c)  the protection of specified areas of significant indigenous vegetation and significant habitats of indigenous fauna; “ (p36) [our italics]

The paper also proposed to delete important environmental and amenity protection principles from the RMA:

Existing matters proposed for deletion:

7(aa) the ethic of stewardship;

7(c) the maintenance and enhancement of amenity values;

7(d) intrinsic values of ecosystems;

7(f) maintenance and enhancement of the quality of the environment;

7(g) any finite characteristics of natural and physical resources.” (p37)

(Ministry for the Environment. 2013. Improving our resource management system. A discussion document. Wellington: Ministry for the Environment). 

Changes to Urban Tree law (allotments under 4 ha) can be found at the Ministry for the Environment ( )  Sections 76(4A) and 76(4B) of the RMA were inserted by the Resource Management (Simplifying and Streamlining) Amendment Act 2009. They came into force on 1 January 2012.  Section 76(4A) was further amended under the Resource Management Amendments Act 2013 (RMAA13) to strengthen “the prohibition of blanket tree protection rules in urban areas”.

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