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Govt plans to restrict the public’s right to have a say on environmental management

The Government is restricting the public’s right to have a say on what happens in their neighbourhoods and on environmentally damaging activities, the Green Party said today.

“Under proposed changes to the Resource Management Act (RMA), council officers will be able to strike out submissions if they don’t meet a high enough threshold. This means that unless people have the time and money to pay for expert evidence, their submission can be ruled out,” said Green Party environment spokesperson Eugenie Sage.

“Under the Resource Legislation Bill, which makes changes to the RMA, values that can’t be quantified, such as mauri, well-being and mana, risk not getting a look in when councils are making up their minds about tree clearing or draining wetlands – activities that have far-reaching, detrimental effects. The changes will ignore the emotional connection people have with the land, and the plants and animals that live on it.

“The Government is making the RMA a developers’ charter by shutting out the wider public, and ensuring that the impacts of development are not on the table when councils make decisions. The Resource Legislation Bill, which makes changes to the RMA, virtually removes council’s ability to notify subdivisions and residential activities for public comment.

“New Zealanders could be left with little say on protecting the plants, animals and places they love and treasure.

“Until now, the RMA has never restricted the public’s ability to have a say on councils’ regional and district plans, which set the rules for management of the coast, air, water and land.

“New “streamlined” plan-making processes will mean people who are not directly affected can be prevented from making a submission on plan changes.

“The RMA was created with the purpose of making sure our environment was managed in a way that benefits the social, economic and cultural well-being of communities. This Bill erodes that purpose,” said Ms Sage.