Forest & Bird welcomes the release of the draft purpose of the Natural and Built Environment Act (NBA) but wants a clearer hierarchy to put preserving nature first.
“We welcome the Government's moves to improve environmental outcomes through this replacement of the RMA, but as it’s currently drafted it won’t avoid further loss of nature,” said Forest & Bird’s RMA reform campaign lead Rick Zwaan.
“The new Natural and Built Environment Act is an opportunity to gift younger generations the kind of healthy natural world they deserve. That’s what was recommended in the Randerson Report and the draft NBA needs to be improved to do just that.
“The draft purpose explicitly balances environmental protection with a vaguely defined wellbeing of current and future generations. We need to explicitly protect and restore nature for its own sake and allow development that doesn’t wreck the environment.
“Since the RMA was introduced, we’ve seen rivers more polluted, wetlands drained, native forests cleared, and climate-destroying coal mines approved.
“Forest & Bird has fought hard through the courts countless times to reduce this loss and emphasise the need for environmental considerations to be paramount. The Government’s intention with the new Act is to better protect nature, but the way it’s worded won’t work.
“Rather than allowing development within environmental limits, the current drafting pits the environment against extractive interests with deep pockets. Too often those extractive interests win.
“We are very concerned the current drafting of the new law includes a list of competing considerations like in the RMA, and no clear hierarchy for protecting nature. This could make it even more complex than the existing law.
“For example, the draft sets out a laundry list of ‘environmental outcomes’ which includes rural economic development and housing development. They’re both very valid outcomes, just not environmental ones.
“We need to improve this draft law to help bring nature back.”
“The purpose of the new law must be to protect our fundamental need for a healthy environment. This should result in a rapid shift away from ‘limiting losses’ towards actively and urgently restoring the natural places and species we all value.
“That doesn’t mean stopping development. It simply means we need to grow and develop in a way that doesn’t destroy the environment.
“We look forward to working with the government to improve this draft law, and we encourage people to tell the Environment Select Committee they want the new law to put nature first,” says Rick Zwaan.
Forest and Bird believes the draft could be vastly improved by tweaking the purpose as underlined:
5 Purpose of this Act
(1) The purpose of this Act is to enable—
(a) Te Oranga o te Taiao to be upheld, including by protecting and enhancing the natural environment; and provided this is achieved
(b) people and communities to use the environment in a way that supports the well-being of present generations without compromising the wellbeing of future generations.