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Support And Concerns Over RMA Reform

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Nick Smith
Nick Smith

Wellington, Feb 3 NZPA - Councils and business groups have broadly welcomed a major overhaul of the Resource Management Act (RMA) but they and environmental groups have some concerns.

The largest overhaul of the RMA since it was introduced in 1991 aims to speed up consent applications and block frivolous or vexatious objectors.

Environment Minister Nick Smith said the changes were not intended to compromise environmental protections.

The Government was not unhappy in general with final decisions being made under the RMA, but wanted to "aggressively" reduce the costs and time taken.

Business NZ Chief Executive Phil O'Reilly said the package would be a "shot in the arm" for investment as problems with the current law were a disincentive for business

Local Government New Zealand President Lawrence Yule said the changes would reduce costs and the amount of time councils spent on RMA issues.

The law was demanding of time and council resources and streamlining the processes would be welcomed.

Councils were concerned about some elements, including the role of the proposed Environmental Protection Authority and the proposal for penalties when consents were delayed.

Mr Yule said many of the factors holding up progress for consent decisions was beyond the control of the authority.

Environmental Defence Society chairman Gary Taylor said most of the proposals were just a needed tune-up of the RMA, but there were concerns over plans to weaken and limit public participation.

Limiting rights of legal appeals and further limits on the notification of resource consents were counter to the principles of accountability and participation, Mr Taylor said.

Greenpeace said the reforms were an attack on the environment and the only part it liked was plans to increase fines for non-compliance of the RMA.

Petrol explorers, chambers of commerce and the roading sector all applauded the changes, with many saying they wanted more fundamental reforms to be examined in the upcoming second stage of the review.

ACT leader Rodney Hide said the reforms would be a good start to address widespread concerns about the RMA, but more was needed.

Labour leader Phil Goff said ongoing improvements to the RMA were needed, but using streamlining as an excuse to steamroll community rights and environmental safeguards would not be tolerated.

National, with the support of ACT and United Future, has a majority in Parliament to pass the law by the end of the year.

NZPA PAR il sl

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