RMA consent changes prompt warnings

  • 14/03/2016

Proposed changes to the Resource Management Act (RMA) go too far and stop people from having their say on environmental issues, the Environment Commissioner says.

In her advice to Parliament about the controversial Bill, which aims to make planning processes quicker and cheaper, Commissioner Jan Wright said the law risked gagging voices about important concerns by lowering the requirement for public notification on consents and keeping others from submitting in some cases.

"I can see that making planning processes faster and simpler in some situations is a good thing," she said.

"But the Bill goes too far in stopping people having their say ... More checks and balances are needed. The powers granted to the minister are too wide-ranging."

In a separate submission, the Department of Conversation (DOC) has also told the Government it may not be able to do its job under the changes.

A report from DOC released by conservation group Forest & Bird shows concerns about restrictions to the consent notification process.

"The proposal to limit affected parties to owners and occupiers of adjacent land and the site itself may preclude DOC from contributing information where there are adverse effects on important conservation values such as impacts on threatened species," DOC said it its advice.

Forest & Bird lawyer Sally Gepp said the changes would mean DOC would be unable to perform its legal role because of those changes.

"The public relies on DOC to be able to do this, but DOC has told its own minister the bill before parliament may have the effect of silencing their voice where development is concerned," Ms Gepp said.

The Bill was shelved in 2013 because of lack of support but was brought back late last year in a watered down form.