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National attacks environmental protection … again …

Written By: - Date published: 9:44 am, August 11th, 2013 - 23 comments
Categories: Environment, sustainability - Tags: , , , ,

John Key sold environment

National is utterly predictable.  Bash beneficiaries, weaken employee protection, attack the trade unions, and trash the environment represents for it business as usual.

Yesterday it announced its proposal for further changes to the Resource Management Act.  Most of the changes are technical and it will be difficult to get ordinary Kiwis upset with what is proposed.  But the changes are at best misguided and will do nothing to maintain existing environmental protection.

When you read the press release the proposes do not appear so bad.  The one plan idea is something that Auckland is doing already.  And who can disagree with increased accountability?

The headline grabbing proposal will be increasing the supply of useable land so that there is a decade’s worth available for projected growth.  National sees a political imperative in appearing to be doing something about housing affordability.

The Minister will be given greater power to intervene.  The party that championed Nanny State is more than happy to give itself increased power as long as it is the party in control.

The Summary of Reform Proposals also released yesterday contains worrying detail.

Sections 6 and 7 of the RMA are to be consolidated into one section.  This is a retrograde step.  Section 6 currently states that the protection of various environmental features are matters of national significance.  Section 7 sets out other things that need to be considered.  Consolidating them will weaken the protective imperatives in the Act.

The proposed new wording for the section has a number of damaging changes.  The new section would remove the need to protect outstanding natural features and landscapes unless they are specifically identified.  The protection of historic heritage from inappropriate subdivision and development is watered down.  The ethic of stewardship for the environment is removed.  The maintenance and enhancement of amenity values will no longer be a consideration.  And the maintenance and enhancement of the quality of the environment disappears as a principle.

A new principles is added.  If passed the effective functioning of the built environment, including the availability of land to support changes in population and urban development demand, will be a major consideration when making decisions under the RMA.

When you compare the existing wording of sections 6 and 7 to what is proposed you can see that it is intended that the environmental protection provided by the RMA will be weakened.

Labour’s Maryan Street has criticised the reform proposals.

By saying that these reforms will open up land for affordable housing is the most deceitful part of John Key’s approach. The government has lots of levers it should have pulled over the last five years to address our critical affordable housing shortage. Now when the noise around it has become too loud for the National Party to ignore any longer, they try to pretend that the RMA has been the problem.

The real danger is that the RMA is being turned into an Economic Development Act and environmental protections are being sacrificed in the process.

Green MP Eugene Sage has said of the proposed changes:

The changes to the Act’s purpose and principles are based on ideology rather than any evidence or substantive analysis of the need for change.  As the Ministry for the Environment’s on the Minister’s February 2013 discussion document says, “ Submitters were concerned there was an absence of reliable evidence – beyond anecdotes and case studies- on which statements were made. Such concerns were evident irrespective of the submitters’ position regarding the intent of the Discussion Document.”

Environmental Defence Society head Gary Taylor has pilloried the proposed changes.

The proposed changes to Part 2 of the RMA will lower environmental standards across New Zealand.

They replace environmental bottom-lines with an un-prioritised menu of conflicting environmental and development matters. That changes the thrust of the Act so that environmental values can be traded off against economic ones.

At last week’s EDS Conference we learned that many of our environmental assets, such as biodiversity and freshwater, are already in decline. These changes will only make things worse.

The Minister for the Environment has repeatedly stated that these changes will not erode environmental protections. However, she has not provided any evidence to back up these statements and we have received legal advice from a number of sources that suggest the opposite.

The Discussion Paper that she has largely relied on has been widely pilloried for its lack of a problem definition and reliance on unsubstantiated anecdote. It has been derided amongst the resource management professions for its lack of intellectual rigour.

The changes are clearly designed to allow the Government to say that it is doing something about affordable housing.  There are affordability problems in Christchurch and Auckland.  Christchurch’s problems relate to the fact it has suffered two devastating earthquakes rather than restrictions in the RMA.  Auckland’s problems relate in no small part to the hollowing out of the provinces that is occurring.  If only this Government would do something about regional development then the attraction of Auckland may lessen.

So how is the RMA working?  Well environmentally things are going backward.  The proposed changes will mean that we go backward quicker.

23 comments on “National attacks environmental protection … again … ”

  1. Bearded Git 1

    Great post Micky.

    IMHO far too much attention is being paid this weekend to one dumb remark from Goff and far too little attention to the MASSIVE changes to the RMA proposed by Adams. This is an issue that Labour can mine for votes-over 13,000 submissions opposed the changes in Adams’ Discussion Document. The changes will mean that even well-heeled Nats voters will have subdivisions dumped beside their leafy rural retreats.

    A classic smokescreen has been set up by Adams where she highlights the small changes to the RMA, saying how they will help you to build a deck on your house etc. The really big more complicated changes that gut the Act are not explained or glossed over.

    I am going to attend the next Queenstown Lakes District Council meeting (next Tuesday) asking Council to submit in opposition to the changes. It would be a great if people throughout Godzone did the same in other Council areas.

    Eugenie Sage’s press release on this issue (linked above) is a must read.

    • mickysavage 1.1

      Thanks BG. You can bet that the Waitakere Ranges Local Board will be making a submission in opposition to the changes …

    • blue leopard 1.2

      +1 Bearded Git

      Good points you make.

      Is good to have an article such as this pointing out the problems with the RMA changes.

      I get overcome with a sense of powerlessness over this RMA issue. The way it is being marketed (i.e. falsely), and the way it is so easy for NZers to be fooled.


      • Bearded Git 1.2.1

        Thanks BL.

        Rod Oram, commenting today in the Sunday Star Times on the damage to Brand NZ from the Fonterra and other scandals, says “Business strategies and government policies are piling on the risks of greater environmental, economic and reputation damage. The government, for example, is gutting the RMA and has delivered a joke of an oceans policy”.

    • David H 1.3

      Welcome to NZ political journalism where one moronic remark by a dinosaur, covers up all the crap the Nats are pushing through.

  2. Sable 2

    Not news anymore really is it? We know National and to a marginally lesser degree Labour couldn’t give two hoots about the environment, that’s why the Greens are doing so well.

  3. tc 3

    Here they go again, repealing the RMA one step at a time and the MSM lackeys as usual telling the people its going to be great for your new deck and oh looky a new flag wow what a guy that shonkey is.

    Adams is a good parrot and will go far recanting hollowman policy. They are going for broke now and who can blame them with a compliant MSM and foot in mouth opposition.

  4. TheContrarian 4

    Speaking of Key on the environment I found this particularly cringe-worthy.


    Yeah, their just jealous. Sure.

    • Poem 4.1

      Ironic john key saying that when he himself likened the 100% clean and green to McDonald’s. john key is an embarrassing clown.

  5. Northshoreguynz 5

    I would love someone in the media to call out the Key family for a swim in the lower Manawatu River, just to show how 100% pure our rivers are.

  6. karol 6

    Yep. Great analysis, micky. And once again key’s government is planning a series of smallish changes that amount to a major shift – as with the employment legislation etc.

    • Bearded Git 6.1

      The changes to Section 6 and 7 and rules around subdivision are not smallish changes.

      • Poem 6.1.1

        No such thing as small changes under national as their rape plunder and pillage of New Zealand continues.

  7. Poem 7

    They say a picture can tell a thousand words, that pic of key with that caption says it all….Brilliant !!

  8. Jenny 8

    The Nacts have declared war on the natural environment and the climate. It is the policy area in which they are weakest. It is where they can be dismantled in the election campaign and have defeat handed them in every debate.

    The Nacts are climate war criminals.

    • Poem 8.1

      Have you noticed Jenny, that since the 2008 election, and apart from the key/Goff staged shows during the 2011 election campaign NO NATIONAL MINISTER including john key DEBATES, particularly in live multi party debates, national know its their weakness, and that’s why they never do it.

  9. vto 9

    The National Party still thinks like the whalers, sealers and timber millers of 100 years ago. They are out of date. They are unable to imagine other ways of living with the land. They know no other way than taking. They should be in a museum of living fossils.

  10. tracey 10

    So much for the supercity being left to manage its own needs and future. Turns out nats just wanted one council to railroad instead of 8.

  11. tracey 11

    The media is reporting that key wants the latest fonterra enquiry to give chinese parents confidence. I thought he said we had to ignore what others think about us.

    maybe if gcsb were about money we could get an enquiry… rather than just freedom and democracy

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