Environment Minister Amy Adams’ latest Resource Management Act reform proposals, published for discussion today, are a head-on assault on the Act and must be stopped, says Forest & Bird.
“New Zealanders need to be deeply concerned about these proposals, which take apart important protections for the places where we live, and challenge communities’ right to be heard in their own plan-making,” says Forest & Bird Conservation Advocate, Claire Browning.
“The 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 says.
The proposals would see a disturbing level of hands-on ministerial control and, in several respects, will tend to marginalise or inappropriately constrain the involvement of submitters and communities in local resource consenting and plan-making.
The Bill would significantly extend central government’s powers to intervene in planning processes, and direct local councils, including allowing the Minister to directly amend an operative plan.
“Already, we can see this approach illustrated in the new planning requirements for trees currently proceeding through Parliament, where communities will be directed about what they are not allowed to do – we’ve seen it in Canterbury and, more recently, in provisions for the first Auckland plan,” Claire Browning says.
If the proposals are implemented, regulations could direct non-notification as a standard for some activity types – mining and mineral exploration, for example, meaning communities would have no say.
Claire Browning says Forest & Bird was particularly disturbed by the bald and false assertion that today’s values and priorities are not well-enough reflected in the Act, based on flawed advice previously comprehensively challenged by a coalition of all main environment groups, and resource management experts.
The economic value of environmental protection, and our clean green brand, has grown enormously since the Act came into force, 22 years ago.
“The Minister is now proceeding with what has been the plan all along: rewriting some of the Act’s most important provisions, as well as altering its core philosophy. Mrs Adams has repeatedly stated her desire to go back to first principles, but she is doing so without bothering to undertake the very comprehensive process of getting a bipartisan mandate that was done before 1991,” Claire Browning says.
Tools already available under the existing legislation had not been developed to full effect. “The Minister has neglected these options: it seems to be about imposing her preferred solution on us all, and writing that power into law for the future,” Claire Browning concludes.