Green groups fight 'eccentric', 'misleading' RMA reforms
By Pattrick Smellie
Sept 9 (BusinessDesk) - A coalition of the country's leading environmental lobby groups has united to oppose what it says are an eccentric "dog's breakfast" of proposed reforms to the Resource Management Act.
The government is considering the recommendations of a Technical Advisory Group on changes to the RMA, which the green groups say will politicise environmental decision-making.
The claims are made in an open letter to the Environment Minister, Amy Adams, from the Environmental Defence Society, Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society, Greenpeace, WWF-New Zealand, the New Zealand Fish & Game Council, and Ecologic.
The combination is notable for the broad range of environmental interests represented, from the global activist Greenpeace to Ecologic, which is run by Guy Salmon, a close adviser to former Environment Minister Nick Smith.
A similar coalition formed to successfully seek changes to new law governing the Exclusive Economic Zone, which was seen to be favouring economic development over the protection of environmental "bottom lines".
The TAG said its recommendations aimed to simplify the RMA in line with the way the courts have interpreted it since its passage in 1991.
The environmental coalition challenges that as "highly misleading", saying the recommended changes "will create a new approach and present decision-makers with a new list of unweighted and unprioritised matters."
"New case law will have to be developed over time, leading to uncertainty, litigation, costs and delays. It is highly misleading to suggest that the TAF's version of the overall broad judgment approach is the same as that developed by the courts," the letter says.
The TAG report was "unpersuasive" and its conclusions "unacceptable" and at times appeared to reflect "nothing more than an eccentric and personal interpretation o9f some uncited planning documents and/or case law," the six environmental groups say.
The proposed changes also created a presumption in favour of economic development over environmental protection.
"The report notes that it is important that environmental legislation does not inhibit innovative and competitive business environment," the letter says. "While we accept this statement it does not follow that it is the role environmental legislation to provide for that business environment."
The recommendations would introduce "an element of political spin into carefully crafted and effective law."