3 Apr 2013

Environment commissioner rejects RMA changes

9:50 pm on 3 April 2013

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment says proposed changes to the Resource Management Act put too much emphasis on economic factors at the expense of the environment.

Submissions closed on Tuesday on changes to the Act aimed at speeding up the resource consent process and giving central government more of a say.

The Government has not yet said whether it will make any changes before drafting a bill but Environment Commissioner Jan Wright says she hopes it will.

Dr Wright told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme the proposed changes muddy the overwhelming focus of the Act, which is to protect the environment, and risk turning it into an Economic Development Act.

"It's not the job of the RMA to promote economic development. It's the job of the RMA to look after the environment while economic development takes place."

Dr Wright says the changes will also give rise to legal wrangling as lawyers and courts try to interpret whether economic or environmental effects have more influence.

The Ministry for the Environment says it received between 13,500 and 14,000 submissions.

Through by end of year - PM

Prime Minister John Key hopes the changes will become law before the year's end.

The changes have been widely criticised by a number of different organisations, who are afraid that a layer of democracy is being lost.

Mr Key says their opinions will be considered before the bill becomes law.

"We'll always listen. I mean that's why you have a select committee process and as you know legislation changes when it goes through a select committee, so yes it's possible.

"But on the other side of the coin, the Government has a view of what that legislation should look like and that's what's obviously going to get clearly in the draft of the bill."