RMA at the heart of our nature – don’t break it

Forest & Bird has joined the Environmental Defence Society, Fish & Game, Ecologic, Greenpeace New Zealand, and WWF-New Zealand in an open letter to Environment Minister Hon Amy Adams, expressing environment groups’ alarm at recent Resource Management Act proposals.

The report from a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) appointed to advise the government had proposed big changes to parts of the Resource Management Act (RMA), and some of its most important sections.

Forest & Bird Conservation Advocate Claire Browning, a former lawyer, said that part 2 of the RMA, which was mainly affected, was a cornerstone of environmental law in New Zealand.

“These proposals are even more significant than the government’s former ideas about mining our national parks. They’re about managing natural resources all over the country, where New Zealanders live every day,” she said.

“These sections of the RMA are almost like a constitution for our environment, and the foundation of everything that gets built. If you want to get anywhere with a development, you don’t take your foundation to pieces and start again every time there’s a change of government.”

While the report was not yet government policy, this collaboration among all of the big environment groups showed the importance of the changes proposed. Claire Browning said that all were agreed upon this, and on the need to communicate unequivocally to the government at an early stage about it.

“There is no government mandate for reform of this very fundamental kind, particularly not in the guise of New Zealanders’ values having changed and the RMA therefore being out of date.

“New Zealanders showed when 40,000 of us marched down Queen St that our values haven’t changed, and there are some environmental boundaries that it would be political suicide to cross,” she said.

The letter listed a large number of concerns, among them, proposals to completely rewrite sections 6 and 7 of the RMA, omitting some matters, including other new ones, and redrafting the remainder. In the redraft, important language requiring decision-makers to recognise and provide for certain things to be protected, preserved, maintained or enhanced would be removed.

Forest & Bird did not accept suggestions that this would merely codify current law. Claire Browning said that her advice, and opinion shared by others, was that it would change the law, which would cost everybody time and money.