Greater RMA consideration sought

VERNON SMALL
Last updated 16:26 05/07/2012

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An independent report into the Resource Management Act has recommended changes that would bring the management of natural hazards and urban infrastructure into the list of things councils should consider when granting resource consents.

The Technical Advisory Group report also said none of those matters should be more important than another, and proposes changes to the structure of the RMA to make that clearer.

Environment Minister Amy Adams said the Govenment would consider the TAG report and the changes proposed to the principles in sections 6 and 7 of the RMA.

"After the Canterbury earthquakes, it became clear that consents for subdivisions had been granted without any consideration of the risk of liquefaction" Adams said.

"The problem was that the RMA did not, and still does not, require these sorts of risks to be assessed and managed. Instead, the RMA prioritises preserving natural character, landscape, flora and fauna, public access, cultural values and heritage over managing natural hazards."

She said a key consideration for the Government was to achieve "enduring outcomes while reducing the time, costs and uncertainties involved in the process".

But Green spokeswoman Eugenie Sage said the proposed changes were a major assault on the RMA and on sustainable management.

"If the Government was concerned about protecting our environment it would strengthen not further weaken the RMA," she said.

"The TAG recommendations are weighted towards facilitating development. This Government's agenda is to weaken the RMA to advance its dig it, drill it, mine it, irrigate it agenda for resource exploitation."

She said a proposal to drop the requirement for councils and decision makers to provide for the "preservation" of natural character and the "protection" of outstanding landscapes and significant indigenous vegetation and habitats as matters of national importance ignored 20 years of Environment Court case law.

"Some of the changes around natural hazards may be sensible, however, the minister is using natural hazard issues as a Trojan horse to weaken the Act's fundamentals around protecting the coast, outstanding landscapes and indigenous biodiversity."

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