Parliament passes reforms of the RMA

Last updated 07:04 10/09/2009

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National have accused Labour of not seeing the wood for the trees as reforms of the Resource Management Act (RMA) passed into law with the support of both major parties last night.

MPs sat late last night to pass the Resource Management (Simplifying and Streamlining) Amendment Bill

The bill reforms many aspects of the law, but the most heat was reserved for proposals to end the ability of councils to lay down blanket tree protection orders.

Only Auckland councils impose such blanket orders and Labour predicted the region's tree would suffer a "death by a thousand cuts" due to the end of the bans.

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.

Environment Minister Nick Smith said councils would still be able to protect trees and they would have the next two years to designate trees or groups of trees they wanted to protect on private land.

Labour was failing to "see the wood for the trees" as other parts of the country managed to preserve trees without burying home owners in red tape, Dr Smith said.

Despite sometimes heated debate the bill passed with only the Greens and the Maori Party opposing the bill.

The Greens said the changes would shut the public out of the planning process and allow developers to harm the economy, while the Maori Party said it did not do enough to protect the interests of Maori.

The major parts of the law attempt to reduce unreasonable and anti-competitive submissions intended to delay or block a competitor by using the RMA.

There is also allowance for the fast-tracking of projects of national importance.

Labour said while it opposed parts of the law and doubted some reforms would work, it opposed the overall thrust of the reforms.

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