7 Jul 2012

Proposed RMA changes cut environmental protection - Greens

6:52 am on 7 July 2012

The Green Party says recommended changes to the Resource Management Act are a major assault on the principles of the Act.

An independent advisory group is recommending that councils should consider natural hazards and urban and infrastructure development when granting resource consents.

It says these factors should be considered equally alongside values such as the preservation of natural character, flora and fauna and public access.

Green Party MP Eugenie Sage says that would mean the environment gets traded away for economic gain.

She says the recommendations unwind the whole commitment to sustainable management which is at the heart of the RMA.

Environment Minister Amy Adams says the review was never about changing the purpose of the Act, but to work out whether it still adequately reflected the things society considered important.

"The fact that things as important as natural hazard management, for example, weren't there, did make us think it was time to have someone independently look at Section 6 and 7."

Ms Adams says the legislation is still very much about the sustainable management of resources.

Ms Adams says it became clear after the Canterbury earthquakes that consents for subdivisions had been granted without any consideration of the risk of liquefaction.

Fish and Game's chief executive Bryce Johnson says the report recommends the removal of references to the habitat of trout and salmon and to amenity values, which he describes as a bizarre suggestion.

"The whole argument about keeping some of the rivers in New Zealand clean and available for the public hinges on clauses like that which enable organisations like Fish and Game to strongly and vigourously advocate for the public interest in those waters."

The Government will consider the recommendations as part of its wider reforms of the resource management system.