Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

RMA to be changed over freshwater management issues

Farmers use irrigation to water crops in Hastings as grass in area turns brown and dry. Photo / HBT
Farmers use irrigation to water crops in Hastings as grass in area turns brown and dry. Photo / HBT

The Resource Management Act is to be changed to allow key freshwater management decisions to made by regional groups made up of people and organisations drawn from local communities, Environment Minister Amy Adams says.

That collaborative approach was one of the recommendations of the long running Land and Water Forum which concluded its work with a third and final report last year.

Ms Adams said it was hoped the new approach would reduce the challenges and litigation that often followed the introduction of council drafted water management plans.

It would be up to local authorities to whether they chose to pursue the new collaborative approach or stayed with the current "Schedule 1" planning process.

However, Ms Adams yesterday confirmed that if councils chose the new approach there would be limited opportunity to appeal planning decisions in the Environment Court.

"Limiting appeals is one of the key tools for fostering consensus and incentivising upfront engagement" Ms Adam told the Valuing Nature conference in Wellington today.
Ms Adams indicated appeals under the new collaborative approach would be limited to instances where there was "deviation from the collaboratively-reached decisions".

Current appeal rights would be retained where councils chose to continue with the Schedule 1 process.

Green Party environment and water spokesperson Eugenie Sage said the changes would reduce New Zealanders' right to appeal decisions that were detrimental to the environment.

"The Environment Court provides people who love our environment and our freshwater with a way to protect it. Limiting appeal rights and relying on buy-in by polluters will dilute protections of our freshwater, vital to our economy and way of life."

Meanwhile, Ms Adams also announced the RMA changes would clarify and enhance opportunities for iwi and Maori views to be explicitly considered before fresh water planning decisions were made whether councils chose the collaborative or Schedule 1 process.

Ms Adams said the RMA changes to be introduced later this year would not give iwi the right of veto over planning decisions.

- NZ Herald

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