by Eugenie Sage
Hard on the heels of its 2012 “RMA Reform Bill” and the 2009 changes, National wants to overturn other core aspects of the Resource Management Act (RMA) as a key plank in its pro development, anti-environment agenda.
EDS described the proposals as “deeply troubling” and potentially lowering environmental standards in New Zealand. So shortly after releasing a discussion document, Environment Minister Amy Adams moved to shut down debate by labelling anyone critical of the changes as “out of touch” and “scaremongers.”
The Green Party expects such accusations from a Minister in a Government which fails to recognises that a sustainable well-functioning economy requires sound environmental management. But it was a very cheap shot by the Minister to attack respected environmental organisations such as the Environmental Defence Society (EDS) and Forest and Bird.
EDS has published a suite of thoughtful reports on topical environmental issues. These analyse the operation and effectiveness of existing legislation and policy, draw on international experience, and recommend constructive improvements. EDS is well ahead of Government agencies such as the Ministry for the Environment and Primary Industry, with its thinking and policy work around oceans management, marine mammal protection, marine reserves and landscape management for example.
Between them EDS and Forest and Bird have published various RMA guides and run numerous seminars to improve public understanding of the Act and give community organisations and individuals more skills to get involved to protect the neighbourhoods and places they love.
The Department of Conservation’s retreat from advocacy under the RMA, in the face of budget cuts and its ” Conservation for Prosperity” strapline has left Fish and Game and environmental NGOs such as EDS and Forest and Bird providing a thin green line against high impact and poorly conceived development.
They are having to do work that DoC should do but isn’t. EDS is appealing the EPA’s decision to allow salmon farming in areas where the Marlborough Sounds Plan prohibits it, and Forest and Bird is going to court to protect the unique coal measure ecosystems of the Denniston Plateau for example.
These organisations know firsthand how the RMA operates and its strengths and flaws. Their analysis deserves attention, not attacks from the Minister.
Unless of course the Minister’s comments and the very short (four week) consultation period signal that the discussion document and the MFE roadshow are a cynical exercise in going through the motions of public “consultation”.
The Minister must engage constructively with the public response to the discussion document and not ignore feedback and steam ahead regardless.