RMA changes must not risk what we hold dear

Proposed changes to the Resource Management Act (RMA) appear on first reading to be a boon for seabed miners and property developers, the Green Party said today.

The National Government today released a new Bill which proposes changes to the RMA, laws governing conservation lands, and the Exclusive Economic Zone.

“The Government has repeatedly attacked the RMA to weaken its environmental protection, reduce public participation, and fast track high impact development. The more than 200 proposed changes in the Bill need to be carefully scrutinised to ensure New Zealand’s natural environment and sustainable urban development are not compromised for short-term financial gains,” said Green Party Environment spokesperson Eugenie Sage.

“The Bill appears to significantly increase the Minister’s powers at the expense of local councils and to further politicise environmental decision making by having the Minister, rather than the Environmental Protection Agency, appoint hearing panels for developments in New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone,” she said.

“The Bill risks having a chilling effect on councils’ ability to regulate in the community’s interest. For example, under proposed changes, councils could be reluctant to protect native plants and trees on private land as the Environment Court could require the council to purchase affected land if protections were deemed to put an ‘unfair and unreasonable burden’ on landholders.

“The Green Party recognises that RMA processes can be improved, but communities and the public need to be consulted on plans and new development. We need effective environmental safeguards, robust and well informed planning and consent decisions, not hasty, narrow, fast track processes.

“The proposed RMA changes must not erode protection of the places we hold most dear; our beaches, rivers, and natural areas. They must not promote ugly urban sprawl at the expense of liveable towns and cities well connected to public transport.

“Fast tracking economic development should not be the sole focus of changes to the RMA. The Government needs to ensure its law changes maintain New Zealand’s quality of life -– which our environment is at the heart of.

“The devil will inevitably be in the detail of National’s proposed changes”, said Ms Sage.

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