26 Jun 2020

Green Party celebrates changes in RMA that consider climate change

5:31 pm on 26 June 2020

The Green Party is celebrating a change to the Resource Management Act it says closes a "loophole" that meant projects that had large impacts on the climate could get consents without considering their greenhouse gas emissions.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw

Party co-leader James Shaw. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

The Resource Management Amendment Bill passed its third and final reading yesterday, and it's also being lauded by the minister for the environment, David Parker.

He said it was a significant milestone in reforming the RMA that would "reduce complexity, increase certainty … and makes significant improvements to environmental outcomes".

According to a Beehive release, the bill "aligns the RMA and the Zero Carbon Act (ZCA) by requiring RMA decision-makers to consider the emissions reduction plans and national adaptation plans that must be published under the ZCA.

"These amendments allow local authorities to consider greenhouse gas emissions in their plan-making and consenting once national direction on climate change mitigation is promulgated."

It's that part of the bill that the Greens are thrilled with.

The party said: "The loophole resulted in a process where decision-makers could not decline large climate-polluting projects, even if they thought the climate impacts were problematic and should be considered."

Party co-leader James Shaw said on Twitter yesterday: "The green movement has been trying to get this fixed for 15 years - and today we did."

Shaw also said "In my view, this is one of the most significant policy changes to address climate change that we have done this term".

"The changes will come into effect when government has developed national policy guidelines."

In response to a social media question asking if the amendment would apply to every new project - houses for example, Shaw added that there would be a "National Policy Statement on Climate Change under the RMA so that only things that make a material difference will be affected".

The Beehive release said the amendment supported the government's essential freshwater package with an "accelerated process for regional freshwater plan changes that will implement the new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020.

It also introduced mandatory and enforceable farm environment plans and required fertiliser sales to be reported on a regional basis, it said.

The release also said the bill would "restore public participation opportunities" and "ensure those who pollute the environment are held to account by increasing infringement fees, increasing timeframes for councils to file prosecution charges, and by giving the EPA new enforcement powers".

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