The Government's latest attempt to change resource management law takes power away from local people, Whanganui environmentalist Nicola Patrick says.

The last attempt to change a whole bundle of resource law failed because the Maori and United Future parties wouldn't support it, she said.

The latest version of the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill gives Maori extra opportunities for participation and the Maori Party has agreed to support it.

She said the National-led Government skipped the usual select committee report process, preventing parties that oppose the bill from having a say. It may now pass its second and third readings.


The law change aims to speed up the resource consent process to make it easier to build houses in Auckland and increase economic growth.

But Ms Patrick, voted on to Horizons Regional Council last month, said it would also cover the coastline and outstanding natural landscapes - "all our most precious places".

Forest & Bird, the Labour Party and Federated Farmers all have concerns about it. They say the bill will increase the power of ministers to override local authority decisions.

Federated Farmers has called those ministerial powers "excessive" and "heavy-handed".

Ms Patrick said the law change would give the Environment Minister the power to appoint the members of an Environmental Protection Authority decision-making panel.

"Imagine if it was about an oil development off our coast, and the Government chose who to appoint to the decision-making panel. It's not creating a sense of transparency and trust."

Local decision-making was very important, she said.

The bill would restrict public input, for instance by shortening the submission period for development on public conservation land from 40 days to 20 days.

Planning authorities would also have the power to strike out submissions.

Forest & Bird fears the Conservation Department would be prevented from making submissions.

The bill would also prevent any appeals to the Environment Court, even on points of law.

Ms Patrick said that was plain wrong. "Even the courts make errors. Not being able to appeal is unacceptable."