Weight of evidence undermining key proposals to change the Resource Management Act

Two developments in the ongoing debate over the government’s planned reforms to the RMA are welcome, and ought to cause Environment Minister Amy Adams to reconsider, Forest & Bird Conservation Advocate Claire Browning says.

At a “Public Conversation on the Environment” held in Wellington, the Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC presented advice on Resource Management Act reforms carried out for Fish and Game New Zealand.

Sir Geoffrey, who led the drafting of the 1991 Resource Management Act, added his voice to the growing chorus of lawyers, policy-makers and users of the RMA, who are concerned about the government’s reform proposals.

“Sir Geoffrey’s advice affirms and fully supports Forest & Bird’s own - that the government’s stated objectives of reducing uncertainty and cost, while continuing to meet New Zealanders’ environmental expectations and uphold Kiwi values, cannot and will not be met by these reforms. The truth is that on each measure, results will be a lot worse,” Claire Browning says.

“The weight of evidence provided by a wide range of organisations closely involved in RMA environment planning and management should cause a rethink by the Minister of the Environment. She’s had a full legal analysis in our own submission, indicating profound flaws in the government’s advice. She’s heard from the Environmental Defence Society’s (EDS’) expert Technical Advisory Group, EDS itself, and all the major environment groups, the latter in the form of an open letter last September.

“The New Zealand Law Society has submitted against the government proposals, saying legal uncertainty and cost will result. The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment says that the RMA is not an economic development act, and these ‘radical’ changes should be abandoned.

“The government’s own officials, in a Cabinet paper released to Forest & Bird under the Official Information Act, gave clear advice: the government’s preferred options were not the best, and were poor solutions to the problems identified,” Claire Browning says.

“The Employers and Manufacturers’ Association has recently gone public with its concerns. And now Sir Geoffrey Palmer has voiced his concerns

“It’s clear now that the only way for the government to cut uncertainty and cost is to listen, and leave Part 2 of the RMA alone,” Claire Browning says.

Labour has said that if it is returned to power, it will repeal any changes to Part 2 of the Act that the government succeeds in making.

Contact: Claire Browning, Conservation Advocate, 027 490 8344