Parliament debates tree protection

Parliament is set to sit to midnight tonight as MPs continue to debate reform of the Resource Management Act.

Parliament is sitting under urgency – which gives the Government the ability to push through laws under extended sitting hours – with the main focus the Resource Management (Simplifying and Streamlining) Amendment Bill

The bill reforms many aspects of the law, but Labour has focused on a new prohibition on blanket tree protection orders.

National argues that the law change would allow for trees to be protected, while freeing homeowners of red tape when they wanted to trim them.

The Government said only Auckland had blanket bans.

Labour predicted wholesale removal of trees from Auckland with MP Lynne Pillay saying it would lead to the "death by a thousand cuts" of suburban greenery.

Labour argued the protections proposed by the changes would not work and would create even more red tape due to the need to list individual trees or groups of trees.

The laws do not take effect until 2011 and Labour MP David Cunliffe said if his party was re-elected it would suspend the tree clauses.

Environment Minister Nick Smith said Labour was making much ado about nothing and protection for trees and forested public area would remain.

Instead homeowners in Auckland would be given more freedom to deal sensibly with their own properties.

Parliament will continue sitting until midnight tonight to pass the bill.

The Government has said it also wants to complete the first reading of a new biosecurity bill and the second reading of legislation providing bonuses on early student loan repayments.

If MPs do not complete that business tonight the Government can resume Parliament tomorrow at 9am.

Earlier today Parliament passed into law the extension of a modified retail deposit guarantee scheme.