11 Sep 2013

Minister happy to negotiate RMA changes

9:01 pm on 11 September 2013

The Environment Minister says she is willing to negotiate with the Maori Party and United Future to get their support, which is crucial for proposed changes to the Resource Management Act.

The parties wrote to Amy Adams on Wednesday pulling their support for the changes, saying they cannot vote for legislation that could remove environmental protections.

Amy Adams.

Amy Adams. Photo: NATIONAL PARTY

The changes announced last month include speeding up the approval of subdivisions and requiring all councils to work together on a single plan.

Ms Adams says she is happy to sit down with the two parties and discuss their concerns.

She says the legislation is still being drafted, but it would need either United Future or the Maori Party's support to get it over the line.

United Future and the Maori Party says the changes go much further than just rebalancing the act to streamline consents.

But Ms Adams doesn't accept the proposed changes would weaken environmental protections.

Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell says the changes would fundamentally re-write the act and could remove environmental protections.

Mr Flavell says the party agrees with the general principles but the mechanics need to be "touched up".

He says merging sections 6 and 7 of the act would undermine the role of tangata whenua as stewards of the environment.

United Future leader Peter Dunne says commercial interests should not override the act's environmental principles.

He says the Government's proposed changes to Act are a backward step.

Mr Dunne says the changes would put commercial interests in front of environmental principles.

Mr Flavell expects the Government will want to negotiate and he thinks they will "enter into dialogue in a short space of time".

A spokesperson for Ms Adams says she will discuss the two parties' concerns with them when she returns from the America's Cup in San Francisco.

Sir Geoffrey Palmer criticises proposed changes

Constitutional lawyer and former prime minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer has sharply criticised the Government's proposed changes to the RMA.

In a report commissioned by Fish and Game New Zealand, Sir Geoffrey says two decades of case law linked to the Act would be rendered redundant by the changes.

Fish and Game says this means consent processes would actually take longer despite the Government arguing the changes will streamline the RMA process.

Sir Geoffrey says the changes will also reduce the level of legal protection for the natural environment and for recreational activities and will also emphasise the benefits gained from the use and development of resources without considering their associated costs.

He says that fundamentally undermines the Act's original emphasis on sustainability.