Major changes to RMA purpose and principles undermine environmental safeguards

Forest & Bird is describing the proposed changes to the core of the Resource Management Act as confirmation that the government's strategy is to create short term economic growth at the expense of the environment.   

Environment Minister Amy Adams outlined the RMA reform bill she plans to introduce to Parliament before Christmas, at the National Party conference in Nelson on Saturday.

"While the government is proposing some changes which will make planning simpler and more consistent across the country, it is also persisting in its proposals to reduce the Act's environmental protections," says Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell.

"The proposed weakening of the environmental safeguards in the Act's purposes and principles are disappointing, unfounded and unrelated to the government's objectives for simpler and consistent planning that leads to greater housing affordability.

"These changes to the Act's core will politicize the RMA for decades, which won't deliver business or the community the certainty it wants and needs.

"The changes will also increase overall costs - by opening much of the RMA to new litigation - as new case law has to be established. This will be very difficult as there is no longer clear guidance as to which principles are more important than others. This uncertainty will only benefit the lawyers," Kevin Hackwell says.

"Most New Zealanders will be pleased to learn that the government has decided to keep the requirement to maintain or enhance coastal access, and that areas of significant indigenous vegetation and significant habitats of indigenous fauna will not have to be specified first in order to require protection.

"However, the changes announced today will remove the requirement for decision-makers to consider the maintenance and enhancement of the quality of the environment, or to consider amenity values. It will also remove the requirement to consider the fact that natural and physical resources are finite.

"The few positive changes announced today, while welcomed, do not go far enough. The need for New Zealand to do a good job of maintaining and protecting our environment has never been greater.

"Our economic wellbeing depends on a healthy and well managed environment and the government should not be swayed by those narrow elements who seek short term advantage from reducing environmental safeguards," Kevin Hackwell says.

New Zealanders will have their last chance to have their say when submissions on the bill open.  

Kevin Hackwell 021 227 8420

Forest & Bird is New Zealand's largest independent conservation organisation, with 50 branches nationwide. It protects our native plants, animals and wild places, on land and in our oceans.

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