Court Decision Shows RMA Flawed

Published: Fri 2 Nov 2007 10:41 AM
Court Decision Shows RMA Flawed
An Appeal Court decision in favour of an environmentalist group has highlighted the urgent need for reform of the Resource Management Act, said Bruce McNab of Federated Farmers of New Zealand.
“The bottom line is that the court decision will have a potentially adverse effect on farmers’ ‘right to farm’ their own land. It also has potential to increase the ability of councils to provide for the protection of amenity values such as views and landscapes,” Mr McNab said.
“There are already sufficient protections for these amenity values and farmers are increasingly being stopped from farming. This has to change and amending the RMA is the best way to achieve it.
“Farmers support the RMA’s ethos of sustainable development, but the pendulum has swung too far toward environmental sustainability. Protecting the livelihoods of people who have farmed for generations is not being taken into account,” Mr McNab said.
The logic used by the court to reach its conclusion is flawed and extremely worrying, Mr McNab said.
“Perhaps the most worrying aspect is the reading by the Court of what it calls a ’precautionary approach’ to the evaluation of plan provisions that is required under section 32 of the RMA.
“Unfortunately, the Court does not elaborate on what it means by a ‘precautionary approach’. But it is clear that ‘precautionary approach’ is to apply when a council has ‘insufficient information about an activity to determine what provision should be made for that activity’ in a plan.
“The question that arises from this is: When will a council have sufficient information?
“Such an approach is incompatible with a basic presumption that a land use activity can be undertaken ‘as of right’ unless the plan provides otherwise.
“The onus should be on councils to ensure they have sufficient information to justify regulating, and to justify the level of regulation – not the other way round.
“Thus, as it stands, the Court of Appeal decision appears to give greater powers to councils to involve themselves in land-use activities, which isn’t good for farmers.
“The Federation has a ‘six pack’ of solutions to problems with the RMA, which relates to the decision’s potentially adverse impact on farmers’ freedom to farm and its potential to increase the ability of councils to provide for the protection of amenity values. On November 20 the Federation will release a booklet summarising its suggestions for fixing the Act,” Mr McNab said.

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