14 Mar 2016

RMA changes may hobble DoC

11:23 am on 14 March 2016

The Department of Conservation has advised its minister that proposed changes to the Resource Management Act (RMA) mean it may not be able to carry out its statutory duty.

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry before the whio release.

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry Photo: RNZ/Robin Martin

One of the changes proposed in the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill, which reforms the RMA, is to specify who can be notified of resource consents.

This determines who can submit on the resource consents.

Forest and Bird lawyer Sally Gepp said the proposed changes limited who could submit on a resource consent to owners and occupiers of adjacent land.

She said there was no reference to parties with a statutory management role, such as DoC or regional councils.

Ms Gepp said DoC officials warned the minister that the proposal had significant implications for the conservation portfolio, as DoC might no longer be able to make submissions on matters affecting its statutory responsibilities.

"At the moment DoC is involved in a whole raft of processes under the Resource Management Act and we rely on them, the public relies on DoC to represent New Zealand's environment in those processes.

"And if they're not able to do that - because they're not a party that major resource consents can be notified to - then there's just a real fear that that voice isn't heard, and that nobody is speaking up for the environmental values that are affected by these proposals."

Forest and Bird campaign and advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell told Nine to Noon that the changes could create a gap - and a problem.

"The reason Parliament's given DoC this responsibility is it's saying this is the public interest here. You're defending our kiwi or our kokako or whatever.

"Now, if DoC isn't doing it, the burden's going to fall on organisations like Forest and Bird - that's a huge burden on us and other organisations, but often that's not [even] going to happen because this particular piece of legislation isn't even going to notify us."

DoC said it was not in a position to make public comment on bills that were before Parliament.

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