Resource Management Amendment Bill

Restricted Duration of Certain Discharge and Coastal Permits

Do you think Councils should be allowed to issue resource consents for polluting discharges to our streams, lakes and coastlines for up to 35 years duration by simply citing "exceptional circumstances"? At the moment, s107(2)(a) allows a Council to issue 35 year duration resource consents, for discharges that have detrimental effects on the environment.

The Resource Management (Restricted Duration of Certain Discharge and Coastal Permits) Amendment Bill ("the Amendment Bill"), is a Members' Bill introduced by Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty. It passed its first reading on 29 August 2012 with support from all parties, except ACT and National.

The purpose of the Amendment Bill is to amend section 107 of the Resource Management Act 1991 ("the Act"), relating to granting discharge permits and coastal permits.

Section 107(2)(a) of the Act allows for discharges to water where “exceptional circumstances” justify it. Under the current law, "exception circumstances" has not been defined or limited which can allow discharge consents to be issued for a period of up to 35 years under s123 of the Act. The Amendment Bill seeks to limit the period for which consent can be issued in “exceptional circumstances” to a maximum of 5 years. The Amendment Bill proposes to add a new section that will read:

Despite section 123, the maximum period for which a discharge permit or a coastal permit may be issued pursuant to subsection (2)(a) is 5 years from the date of commencement of the consent under section 116.”

Further infomation

The most well-known case of the term "exceptional circumstances" being used loosely is where the Bay of Plenty Regional Council has allowed the Tasman Mill in Kawerau to discharge wastewater into the Tarawera River since 1995. In 2010, the mill used this clause of the RMA once more to obtain resource consents to keep discharging for another 25 years. That is, under section 107 (2)(a) of the Act, the mill has been consented to discharge to the river for a total of 42 years This is clearly not an exceptional circumstance but a case of a business-as-usual approach being used to exploit this loophole in the RMA.

Make a Submission

To make a submission, click here, scroll to the bottom of the page and click the link.

Points you might like to include in your submission (using your own words):

  • If you can, relate your concerns to a local stream, river, lake, wetland or coastal area, that you have a connection with.
  • State that amendment to section 107 may well save your favourite waterway from ending up like the Tarawera sometime in the future.
  • This clause in the RMA has been abused in the past because a loose definition of “exceptional circumstances” makes it possible to justify on-going pollution into waterways over many years.
  • Exceptional circumstances should mean just that, i.e. unusual, not typical, and should not be applied to a business-as-usual approach
  • Economic gain on its own does not justify the use of Section 107(2)(a) or constitute "exceptional circumstances".
  • Five years is a sufficient length of time for industrial or sewerage plants to make alternative arrangements for the discharge of wastewater or sewage.
  • New Zealand's rivers, lakes, wetlands and coastlines, along with the fish, birds and aquatic invertebrates that live in them, are under constant attack from pollutants that arise from land use and human activities. We need strong legislation to protect these ecosystems from pollution.

Submissions close on 29 November 2012.