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100% PURE…going…going…gone…

Written By: - Date published: 12:00 pm, October 12th, 2010 - 24 comments
Categories: Environment, farming - Tags: ,

When the 2009 ‘streamlining and simplifying’ amendment to the RMA was rushed through parliament last year, many concerns were raised about new abilities for the Minister for the Environment to use National Environmental Standards (NES) to override local government regulations, and how these could be abused to pave the way for political interest groups.

We’re now one step closer to that becoming a reality. The Minister is consulting on his pet project, a NES for Forestry. Seems a pretty benign topic at first, and logical that the forestry industry is subject to the same standards throughout the country. However, a quick read of the proposed NES raises a number of big concerns for those of us who enjoy clean waterways, rural landscapes, and biodiversity.

The proposed NES for Forestry could more aptly be called the ‘let the farmers do what they want’ standard. Not only does it enable just about anything to do with harvesting plantation forest, it also makes any earthworks or quarrying within the rural environment a permitted activity (not subject to the resource consent process), except when it is in an area prone to erosion. This would mean all farmers can use the NES to bypass earthworks controls aimed at protecting landscapes and water quality, regardless of whether or not the earthworks or quarrying is for forestry purposes. There are a heap of other issues as well, just read the part of the standard called ‘permitted baseline’ to get an idea of the licence the NES gives to farmers and foresters to do what they like.

And it gets worse. The NES also proposes that local government will have no ability to monitor these activities. Instead, it requires the industry to audit its own performance, and to provide this audit information to local government (and the community it represents) after the fact. This pretty much removes any ability for Councils and communities to hold foresters to account for the large impacts they can potentially have on water quality, etc.

Obviously, Nick Smith knew that this wouldn’t go down well with Councils who regulate forestry activities with the aim of protecting water quality, biodiversity, and landscape values. So guess what, the consultation period for the new NES is during the local government elections recess period, i.e. the NES was proposed after Councils could formally consider it, and submissions close in mid October, before any new Councils have had their first meeting of the new triennium.

So what’s the reason for all this? According to the cost benefit analysis, the forestry sector would save $4million a year in compliance costs, and the Ministry for the Environment wouldn’t have to listen to forestry lobby groups anymore (this is actually listed as a benefit!!). The cost is a complete loss of control over earthworks, quarrying and forestry activities in all of New Zealand’s rural areas.

24 comments on “100% PURE…going…going…gone…”

  1. Bill 1

    So I could quarry gold bearing rock from ‘my’ farmland? Including from an area of historic significance? Just recently, a couple of farmers who sold land removed tailings from an old (historical) gold dig. They were fined.

    But under the proposition above, could they remove all tailings as long as the area wasn’t prone to erosion, thereby effectively destroying aspects of NZ’s heritage?

  2. Astounding. Think of what they could do to the private land in the Waitakere Ranges.

    Capcha leaves, how appropriate.

  3. r0b 3

    the consultation period for the new NES is during the local government elections recess period, i.e. the NES was proposed after Councils could formally consider it, and submissions close in mid October, before any new Councils have had their first meeting of the new triennium.

    Pricks.

  4. NickS 4

    And it gets worse. The NES also proposes that local government will have no ability to monitor these activities. Instead, it requires the industry to audit its own performance, and to provide this audit information to local government (and the community it represents) after the fact. This pretty much removes any ability for Councils and communities to hold foresters to account for the large impacts they can potentially have on water quality, etc.

    Since when has industry self-reporting ever worked? There’s a very large incentive for those who are self-reporting on things which will cause them economic costs or benefits to distort or lie, which is why it’s generally best practice to have external, fairly independent audits.

    Ironically however, this might end up resulting in court cases against forestry owners that ended up costing more than the individual savings they make from this. Of course though, it’s unlikely Nick Smith of the forestry groups have even taken this into account, despite what’s happen in the USA. Let alone the basic spirit of environmental regulations, which is to reduce long term clean up or litigation costs that are typically socialised and thus reducing costs for all parties involved. But I guess history is for arts students, and so not worth anyone else bothering to take head of.

    Hmm. Next you know we’ll hear someone spinning dairy effluent run-off as “not so bad, and so not worth councils bothering to deal with”, irrespective of the increased water processing costs, and other fun-tastic environmental costs.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.1

      Since when has industry self-reporting ever worked?

      It hasn’t which is why NACT like it.

  5. Draco T Bastard 5

    NACT, implementing fascist/corporatist policies and control of the community for their corporate overlords.

  6. hateatea 6

    The Resource Management Act has always been a thorn in the side of those who see the natural environment as merely a money making asset. As such, it has not surprised me that it has been under constant attack from National and their cronies.

    It is difficult to know quite what might be done to stop this particular juggernaut but perhaps DOC, Forest & Bird, iwi groups etc may be the groups leading the opposition and lodging the submissions.

  7. Red Rosa 7

    Very likely the National standards for water will work similarly – dumbed down to the level of the Manawatu. And the farmers aren’t even happy with that!

  8. tc 8

    The only waterway this lot are concerned about is the one sitting outside their beachouses…in sideshows case that’s the pacific waterway experienced from the Omaha or hawaii end.

  9. Jim MacDonald 9

    Might this be yet another example of the DonKey policy approach – gone by lunchtime?
    When the duplicity is exposed, then mouth something vacuous.

  10. salsy 10

    I really think its time to adopt Mnact as the new NACT. I think its time the Maori party shared responsibility for the desicration of the NZ environment under this govt.

    • KJT 10.1

      Probably right as the Maori party initial reason for being was to demand equal rights to put fish farms all over the sounds. Makes them a good fit with NACT.

      • Draco T Bastard 10.1.1

        Why do you think I’ve always opposed Maori ownership of the seabed. I got told by a Maori activist a long time ago that Maori “environmental concerns” and land ownership had absolutely nothing to do with preserving the environment and everything to do with making money. They wanted to be like the rich white pricks that destroy everything that they touch.

        • hateatea 10.1.1.1

          That particular activist may have only been interested in commercial opportunities bit many iwi members, including me, have worked many long hours, paid and unpaid, to fight for environmental protection, species conservation and recovery and other ‘not for profit’ causes.

          Of course we want to own land, especially that that we never sold, but that is not unique to Māori. Why beat us up for that. Isn’t it every New Zealander’s dream – to own a share of paradise?

          I am sad to see that a dialogue about a rort of environmental protection promoted by Nick Smith should deteriorate into promoting hearsay mythology about recent iwi conservation and environmental activism

          • Draco T Bastard 10.1.1.1.1

            Isn’t it every New Zealander’s dream – to own a share of paradise?

            Nope – especially when you realise that such dreams are pathological which itself is the result of a society that is impaired. The land, seas and sky “belong” to all of us – we are its caretakers. None of these can be removed from the commons no matter how much some want to fence off everything.

        • KJT 10.1.1.2

          I’ve long advocated that ALL foreshore and seabed be returned to the commons.
          http://kjt-kt.blogspot.com/search/label/Foreshore%20and%20seabed

          This is in accordance with Maori concepts of land as under guardianship as well as most NZ Pakeha and Maori ideals about common access to the foreshore.

          As Maori have a justified inherited property right they should be compensated along with any other legal owners of the foreshore and seabed as we progressively take it back as commons for everyone in NZ.

          Not to be raped by Pakeha rich pricks or the Maori aristocracy, Who have learn’t their lesson well from the same rich pricks..

      • hateatea 10.1.2

        That was not the reason why the Māori Party was formed and repeating it over and over will never make it so.

  11. freedom 11

    Based upon various responses to the widespread linking of this article I think a lot of people are genuinely startled by what this move represents, yet are so lost in the recent weeks’ quagmire that they are unable to define exactly why this latest action by the National government causes such heartfelt reaction

    Could it be that they actually remember what it is to be a New Zealander
    that without our land we are nothing

  12. Swampy 12

    As you can see for such a small measure the above posting is light on content, that is because a read of the actual NES proposal shows that this posting is at best a creative interpretation and at worst a load of unmitigated scaremongering bollocks.

    For example while there may not need to be a resource consent applied for there has to be notice given of activities such as earthworks (20 days is the typical period mentioned so far) and the regional/district council has the ability to monitor the work being done and can also impose more stringent conditions than the NES in a number of important areas of environmental impact. As stated for example in this section:
    “4.8.3 Terms and conditions for quarrying being a permitted activity
    General conditions

    Notification

    It is proposed that notice be given to the local authority 20 working days prior to commencement of quarrying activities. This gives councils an opportunity to monitor the activity properly.”

    The claim there is no requirement for resource consents is rubbish as this paragraph makes clear:
    [5.2]
    “There may also be cases where councils apply more stringent conditions for activities. The result of this situation may be that activities that are subject to more stringent tests and certain activities may default to requiring a resource consent.”

    The claim that the NES also proposes that local government will have no ability to monitor these activities is wrong. The NES states that in some circumstances the need for monitoring may be reduced, in other situations the need for monitoring may be increased.

    To sum up: the claim that the cost is a complete loss of control over earthworks, quarrying and forestry activities in all of New Zealand’s rural areas, is inaccurate and misleading. The author of this post should qualify their objectivity by stating which environmental lobby group they are representing with this message.

    • BLiP 12.1

      You could always tell us which business interests you are seeking to protect.

    • lprent 12.2

      I would have to agree with James rather than your good self.

      I can see an awful lot of scope within the regs you pointed out for some of the more impatient and less neighbourly amongst the rural (and there are a significiant minority of both) to cause a lot of downstream damage. As far as I can see they might have to put up a notice, but they don’t have to have public plans – so that is a completely meaningless gesture. How are the council or for that matter the neighbors going to know what is going to happen from a bald statement of notice.

      Sure a council can monitor but that will always be after the fact, and from the look of these regs there will be absolutely nothing that the council can do if someone drops a hill into a stream.

    • SjS 12.3

      Swampy, there is a bit difference between something being permitted and having conditions attached to it, or automatically requiring resource consent as a matter of fact (such as something with discretionary status, which quarries usually are in a rural environment)

      By making activities like quarries, large scale earthworks, tracking, etc, permitted, the NES is changing the presumption from a test as to whether the activity should occur at all (i.e. a discretionary activity) to a test about whether the conditions put on the activity are appropraite (permitted activity).

      Basically, it means that local councils will have no ability to say no to such activities, and will have a limited ability to control them. Anyone who has seen a silt/sediment dam failure (as I have – it happens a lot in NZ) can tell you that water control associated with earthworks is difficult, hence why it is usually subjected to a resource consent process to make sure it is done properly.

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