Labour warns of council straitjacket

By Sophie Price

7 comments
Labour MP David Parker (left) in a GMO-free orchard in Hastings. Photo / Paul Taylor
Labour MP David Parker (left) in a GMO-free orchard in Hastings. Photo / Paul Taylor

Labour has slammed a proposed change to resource management legislation that for the first time gives government the power to overrule decisions made by councils in their district plans.

The clause, dubbed the "dictator clause" by opposition environment spokesman David Parker, was one of 40 introduced into the Beehive, which the Government says will improve the resource management system.

The change that has Labour seeing red is a proposal to add a new section, 360D, in the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill - if passed it will enable the minister to direct local authorities to monitor the environment according to specified indicators, standards or methods and to provide information to the minister.

It is something the current act does not allow for.

"The Governor General may, by Order in Council made on the recommendation of the Minister make regulations - to permit a specified land use, to prohibit a local authority from making specified rules or specified types of rules," the proposed Section 360D reads.

Mr Parker, who was in the region to meet with Pure Hawke's Bay, said if the proposal was passed it would affect Hastings District Council's bid to be GMO free.

"For the first time ever if this passes 360D will enable the Minister to override rules in district plans," he said.

He said this would mean that if a district plan had a rule that prevented the use of GMO in food production it would be overruled by ministerial edict out of Wellington.

"This provision in the RMA would introduce a new principle into New Zealand's law where Wellington could override Hastings, which is just wrong. It is an atrocious grab for power.

"We oppose it - there is no need for that clause."

Hastings District Mayor Lawrence Yule said while he understood it was the Government's responsibility to set national legislation and rules - this clause came as a surprise.

"Effectively if this provision, and how it would be used is yet unknown, but if it was rolled out and there was the ability to unravel a local rule then as a local mayor I say, 'How fair is that?'"

He said one could argue whether it was a way of "stymieing" the council from making decisions, such as the Hastings council's want for the district to be GMO free.

"Another risk in this is that somehow the Government changes the law because we are operating under the current law so if the Government wants to change the RMA then we want to make sure that our decision making is not stifled by it," he said.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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