22 Mar 2013

Eco lobby says RMA changes benefit business

8:01 pm on 22 March 2013

Forest and Bird says proposed reforms of the Resource Management Act tip the balance too far in favour of farmers and business.

The Government has begun a series of meetings throughout the country to inform the public about the reforms before drafting an amendment to the act later this year.

It says there's widespread discontent with the act from farmers right through to people wanting to carry out home renovations.

But a lawyer for Forest and Bird, Peter Anderson, says the changes place too much emphasis on encouraging economic development and are bad news for the environment.

He says the act is already working well and most applications are approved.

[audit]http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/2549982/critics-say-rma-reforms-favour-farmers-and-business.asx Hear Conan Young report on the issue for Checkpoint

Separately local councils have told MPs a bill to reform the Resource Management Act (RMA) will increase costs and lead to more red tape.

Parliament's local government and environment select committee, at its hearing into the proposed legislative changes, was also told that amendments to the law to speed up the granting of resource consents are not needed.

The legislation gives councils a six-month time limit for processing consents for medium-sized projects and streamlines other consent processes but Palmerston North city councillor Tangi Ukitere told the committee no substantial gains would come from that, as 95% of all resource consents are already processed on time.

Mr Ukitere also said his couuncil was concerned about the gradual watering down of the role of local authorities.

Referred to the Auckland situation, Mr Ukitere said there appears to be a continual targeting of local government as the problem when it came to Government's priorities for improving the economy and housing.

Speaking on behalf of Wellington Regional Council and Local Government New Zealand, Fran Wilde also singled out a requirement for councils to undertake environmental reporting.

She said officials have acknowledged it could be very expensive and councils would have to bear that cost and later be criticised for it.

Ms Wilde said such unfunded policies make councils the meat in the sandwich.