Government accused of using quakes to weaken RMA

4:47 am on 11 October 2011

Environment Minister Nick Smith is rejecting claims he plans to weaken the Resource Management Act.

Environmental groups fear Canterbury's earthquakes are being used as an excuse for a review of the principles of the act.

On Friday, Dr Smith announced a review of the act after revealing that 1200 badly-damaged houses in the Christchurch and Waimakariri districts were built on land already known to be at risk of liquefication.

He says the review is to fix a loophole in the law which means the risk to trout and salmon comes before the risk of natural hazards to people.

But Environmental Defence Society chair Gary Taylor says it was the councils that failed when they approved consents for the houses - not the law.

Mr Taylor says he fears the Government will try to insert a reference to economic considerations into the Resource Management Act and is not confident that the recommendations of the review panel will be balanced.

He says the society will do its own review of the act based on the same terms of reference.

Dr Smith says any changes will have to be part of the Government's drive to make the act work better and less costly, but there is no intention to reduce the law's environmental safeguards.