INDEPENDENT NEWS

Resource Management Act Survives

Published: Thu 15 Jul 1999 11:08 AM
The Resource Management Act has survived three years of effort by ultra right-wing activists to gut it, Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today.
Late last night the Government introduced the Resource Management Amendment Bill which was referred to Parliament's transport and environment committee. Ms Fitzsimons is a committee member.
Last year, as part of Ms Fitzsimons' campaign to save the Act, the Green Party published a substantial analysis of proposed changes, to help people with submissions.
"It's a tribute to the huge energy and commitment of community groups and concerned individuals over two years that the bill has considerably watered down the worst features of original proposals," Ms Fitzsimons said. "Seven hundred and fifty submissions have caused Environment Minister Simon Upton to back off."
However the result still creates serious concern for the environment, and for community participation, she said.
"The main effect will be to reduce opportunities for local communities to have a say on proposed developments. Less than 5 percent of applications for resource consent are publicly notified now and under this legislation it will be much less.
"In addition, the power is being taken away from elected representatives of the people and given to unelected professionals who are not accountable for their decisions.
"Two years ago I made public Commerce Ministry proposals to allow developers to choose consultants to process their consents in a `contestable market'. They would have seen these professionals competing to offer a service that would exclude the public wherever possible and lower environmental standards when they could get away with it. Then the ministry would have allowed them to issue the consent, based on their own analysis of the application.
"The bill does not go quite so far. Consultants will not have the power to issue consents and they will be paid by the council not the developer. However, because the developer still gets to choose them, the incentive to cut corners in the developer's favour or lose the job remains strong. And the decision maker relies heavily on the information provided through this analysis.
"It is like saying you can choose your own judge to preside over your court case because it is the jury that actually makes the decision."
ENDS

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