After two 12-hour marathon days of submissions, last week and yesterday, it looks like the National-led Government’s attempt to “simplify and streamline” the Resource Management Act – New Zealand’s primary environmental protection law – by removing the “non-complying” consent category is full of holes and sinking fast.
Green Co-Leader and MP on the Select Committee, Russel Norman, said yesterday that councils are up in arms about this amendment, which will involve huge costs for rate-payers. The “non-complying” category is used for activities that are not prohibited but need to be highly restricted. Removing this category and will force councils to review their district plans – this would cost Auckland rate-payers alone millions of dollars. It will also require costly litigation in the Environment Court to test the new boundaries of consent categories which have been defined by years of case-law.
The Herald today reports that “unlikely allies” are attacking the Government’s reforms from all sides. Numerous other submissions have pointed out that other changes will cause cost and confusion, rather than streamline and simplify:
- ridiculous changes to tree protection rules that will result in thousands and thousands of trees to Council plans;
- clumsy reversal of notification criteria that will reset the legal precedent and invite lots of court time to work out what the ambiguous amendment means;
- unreasonable restrictions on appeal rights that will result in more challenges at council hearings and clog up the Environment Court with hearings to seek leave.
Back at the Auckland hearings, even Rodney District Council, led by mayor and former ACT MP Penny Webster, opposed the “non-complying” amendment. Ironically, Penny is on the Technical Advisory Group for RMA reform that suggested the amendment in the first place! Do I detect a change of heart, or perhaps reality overriding ideology?
The glum and pale faces of the National MPs on the Select Committee suggest they may also be facing a reality-check. Will they do what’s right for New Zealand, or will they be whipped into line by the Minister?