RMA changes up for discussion at public meeting

By Lindy Laird

Resource Management Act (RMA) changes that lobby groups warn will erode current environmental protection standards will be aired at a public meeting in Kerikeri.

Environment Minister Amy Adams said on Friday the Government would proceed with proposed changes to Part 2 - dubbed the "engine room" - of the RMA. Watchdogs say the changes include a large number of sensible reforms but others will lower environmental standards.

"Although many of the changes in the proposed RMA (Simplifying and Streamlining) Bill are very sensible, I cannot understand the need for the changes to Part 2 of the act," said David Clarkson, organiser of the meeting at Kingston House, Hone Heke Rd, at 7.30pm tomorrow.

Analyses by Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC showed the proposed changes "will significantly and seriously weaken the ability of the RMA to protect the natural environment and its recreational enjoyment by all New Zealanders", Mr Clarkson said.

"To me these changes to Part 2 appear to be unnecessary and do worry me, particularly when we realise that our economy is dependent on the health and well-being of our environment."

Fish and Game New Zealand is also concerned that aspects of the reforms attack Kiwi values.

"The question has to be asked, what is the Government's motivation for taking the wrecking ball to the environmental safeguards in Part 2 of the act?" chief executive Bryce Johnson asked.

Fish and Game supported the moves to shorten time frames, improve planning processes and simplify planning documents, "however, it is totally unacceptable that National is using this as an excuse to attack the core principles of the act, effectively lowering environmental standards", he said.

Environmental Defence Society chief executive Gary Taylor said the changes "replace environmental bottom-lines with an unprioritised menu of conflicting environmental and development matters".

Mr Taylor said the thrust was to trade off environmental values against economic ones. The discussion paper Ms Adams used to present the Government's case had been widely pilloried.

"A surprising new proposal that was not consulted on is to reverse the presumption in plans relating to subdivision. The proposal is that subdivision will be allowed throughout New Zealand unless the plan says otherwise."

Mr Taylor said such a change would be challenging for councils to implement but subdividers would "think all their Christmases have come at once".

- Northern Advocate

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