Government ministers will have a "disturbing" ability to intervene in resource consents and diminish the role of the Environment Court, Opposition members have warned after the release of new reforms.
Labour, the Greens and environmental groups were concerned at the proposal to "clarify and extend" the Government's powers over the planning process, which was part of sweeping changes to the Resource Management Act (RMA) unveiled yesterday in a discussion paper.
The Government already had power to direct councils or "call in" consents to a board of inquiry, but the paper said it was not clear when and how this could be used.
The Government wanted to streamline the consent process for urgent issues, and allow ministers to directly change an existing plan.
The Environmental Defence Society said the changes would be at the expense of community input, and were of concern when combined with proposals to narrow the role of the Environment Court.
Forest and Bird said the proposals introduced a disturbing level of hands-on ministerial control.
Labour environment spokeswoman Maryan Street said it was "another power grab by the Government".
Environment Minister Amy Adams dismissed the concerns, saying the changes amounted to "backstop powers if things don't go according to plan".
The discussion paper said the RMA did not reflect up-to-date values and was "frozen in time.
There was concern its principles placed too much emphasis on environmental matters, which overshadowed the positive effects of economic or social activities.