by Catherine Delahunty
Last week the Local Government and Environment Select Committee started hearings on my Resource Management (Restricted Duration of Certain Discharge and Coastal Permits) Amendment Bill. Most of the submissions support the Bill because it will clean up rivers and provide certainty, however not the mining industry. The mining and petroleum industries submitted against the Bill because it might limit their opportunities and be a disincentive to investors. This is a predictable and negative response to the Bill and it was clear that they were not familiar with the Tarawera River case that partially inspired the Bill. However the Straterra submission was fascinating. Bernie Napp from Straterra suggested that they could have the right to discharge polluting coal waste into rivers for more than 5 years in exchange for cleaning up some historic acid mine drainage caused by previous coal mining. This sounds like a terrible idea as well as a retrogressive approach to environmental management. I asked him what rivers they were planning to pollute for more than 5 years and he was at pains to explain that they had no plans they just wanted to keep the option open.
If we are talking about certainty my Bill is a great idea. It providers a certainty that polluting waterways and the ocean under the RMA Section 107 2a “: exceptional circumstances” clause for more than 5 years will not be an option. What 21st century developer would want such an option? If we want to foster certainty and innovation we will ensure legislation that fosters that approach and not the Straterra bizarre bargain. One dirty river in exchange for cleaning up your industry’s previous mess? I don’t think so. The beauty of my Bill is that a clear line gets drawn and it still allows local authorities some leeway for wastewater and storm water improvements and negotiations. This view was expressed by the Otago Regional Council who made a brief and crisp submission in favour of the Bill. They simply said the Bill was needed to end gross pollution of waterways and they fully support it!