Source: Federated Farmers
Federated Farmers has urged the Environment Select Committee to ditch the RMA Amendment Bill and wait for the related concurrent processes on its work programme to play out.
The Bill pre-empts and jeopardises the comprehensive review of the Resource Management Act currently being undertaken by the specialist panel appointed by the government, Feds environment spokesperson Chris Allen told the committee this morning. It also puts the cart before the horse on the Essential Freshwater proposals, which sought feedback from the public on some of the same matters as in the Bill.
"There’s been a concerning lack of stakeholder engagement on the more crucial matters within the Bill.
"Federated Farmers was very concerned to note that while the government was consulting on these exact proposals as part of the Essential Freshwater ‘Discussion Document’ process, it was concurrently drafting its answers into the Bill – prior to assessing and addressing feedback and concerns raised in the more than 17,500 submissions received.
"The Bill is fundamentally at odds with its overarching objective, which is ‘to reduce complexity, increase certainty, restore public participation opportunities and improve the Act’s processes’."
Allen said that fast-tracking freshwater planning processes in this manner often become ‘survival of the best resourced’, with smaller councils left behind. It would certainly do nothing for meaningful public consultation.
"Freshwater planning processes across New Zealand are either already well underway or near or at completion. There are real risks of upending this progress."
Answering a question from select committee chair Duncan Webb, Allen said there was nothing wrong with resource-stretched councils being able to call in the Environmental Protection Agency to help with enforcement and/or prosecution issues. But the way the Bill was currently written seemed to allow the EPA to step in uninvited, override local processes and assume full and total powers, including enforcement. This was an unwarranted duplication of roles.