Ground shifting under resource management

31 Oct 2012

With the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) legislation to manage our oceans now passed, the government’s attention is turning to more local resource management.

Environment Minister Amy Adams is considering TAG (Technical Advisory Group) proposals on RMA reform.

The Prime Minister says there will be two RMA (Resource Management Act) reform Bills, one of them introduced before Christmas.

The Crown Minerals (Permitting and Crown Land) Bill has also just been introduced, and sent to the Commerce select committee.

Last month Forest & Bird joined our ENGO colleagues – the Environmental Defence Society, Fish & Game, Ecologic, Greenpeace NZ, and WWF-New Zealand – in an open letter to Mrs Adams about the TAG’s recommendation that sections 6 and 7 of the RMA should be rewritten.

The letter, explaining ENGOs’ collective deep alarm about the proposals, had some good coverage, including most recently by Rod Oram in the Sunday Star-Times, where he suggests that “gutting” the Act is on the government’s agenda, and responds that this would be unwise.

We’ll be working over the coming months on building regional awareness and concern about the fact that the government is even considering such radical ideas, and asking for lobbying support from our branches and local networks.

Meanwhile, the Crown Minerals Bill gives effect to promises made by the government in July 2010, following its consultation on mining in national parks. At the same time, the Conservation Minister’s powers are very cynically undermined.

Promises about adding Schedule 4 category land automatically to that schedule, not removing any land from the schedule, and publicly notifying “signifi cant” applications to mine on public conservation land are kept. But what is “significant” is at the discretion of Ministers.

A new “economic benefi ts” factor is to be added to access decision-making, and the Minister of Energy and Resources will have a new role. The Conservation Minister’s powers under various Acts to classify the land that she administers are given to the Governor-General by Order in Council.

The purpose clause of the Act is rewritten: from being an Act to restate and reform (and regulate) the law, to one that is about promoting mining.

Further “streamlining” of RMA and concession decision-making is also expected.

Piece by piece, the National government is rewriting laws that have built our environment, that have been our foundations for 20 years, and that allow nature-lovers to speak. We’ll be continuing our advocacy and lobbying campaign to build awareness a