Resource management reforms raise concerns
Grant Robertson | Thursday, December 6, 2012 - 09:27
The first round of the Government’s reform of the Resource Management Act contains proposals that have the potential to undermine key principles of public participation, local decision making and a focus on environmental protection, Labour’s Environment spokesperson Grant Robertson says.
“This Bill is only stage one of the proposed reforms, yet it raises questions about the commitment of the Government to upholding the core principles of the RMA.
“There are a number of largely uncontroversial technical amendments, but there are others that are concerning.
“One is the plan to introduce a six month consent time for medium sized projects, where the devil is in the detail. While improving the process for consents would be welcome it must not be done in a way that undermines public participation or sees short-cutting on the analysis required to understand the full impact of the consent.
“The proposal to restrict local councils’ ability to protect trees is an attack on local decision-making. The Bill will force Councils to identify individual trees or groves in plans, rather than giving powers for wider protection measures. The result of that will be a bureaucratic nightmare that could lead to inadequate policies to protect and promote urban tree life.
“Local decision-making is further put at risk by the proposal for direct referral of a consent if it is above a level of investment that is to be prescribed by regulation. This takes power from local communities and puts it directly in the hands of Ministers
“Also worrying is the emphasis on economic development above environmental protection, in particular in the cost-benefit analysis of proposed plans. The Government has already signalled that future changes to the RMA will give greater prominence to economic development considerations.
“The heart of the RMA is the emphasis on sustainable development. Singling out economic development will destroy the balance inherent in the Act.
“Labour wants to see the RMA work as effectively and efficiently as possible, but we will not support measures that take away the legitimate right of local communities to have a say in development or which tip the scales in legislation away from sustainable development,” Grant Robertson said.