Editorial: Changes to RMA stir up concern

By Dylan Thorne


Environmental groups are concerned that water quality and volumes in our rivers and lakes could be severely affected if the Government decides to move ahead with suggested amendments to the Resource Management Act.

The Bay of Plenty Times Weekend reported that a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) report on proposed RMA changes has prompted an open letter to Environment Minister Amy Adams.

The environmental groups say the proposals would substantially lower environmental standards - and that goes against the core purpose of the legislation.

Recommendations such as the removal of terms like 'protect", "preserve", "maintain" and "enhance" "smacked of political opportunism to fit a perceived government economic growth agenda," they said.

Removing these terms from the Act would represent a dramatic change - so it would appear that these groups are right to be concerned.

Fish and Game chief executive Bryce Johnson has called the proposals an "out-and-out attack on the environment" that will pave the way for rampant and unsustainable development.

However, Tauranga National MP Simon Bridges says no decisions have yet been made and has defended the Government's position, saying an overhaul of the RMA has been a hot issue in the electorate.

The Government, he says, will listen to all perspectives across the political spectrum before it makes decisions but points out his party campaigned at both the 2008 and 2011 election on ongoing RMA reform.

The Resource Management Act does seem to slow down development and it's not uncommon for those in the industry to express frustration with the Act.

Of course, development boosts economic activity, but a middle ground has to be found - however difficult that may prove to be.

Removing terms like "protect" and "preserve" and "maintain" from the Act, in my view, is not they way to achieve this.

Removing those terms would undermine efforts to protect and value natural environments.

The Government needs to carefully balance the frustrations expressed by industry against the need to protect the environment for future generations.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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