Fish & Game Vows To Fight To Protect ‘Cornerstone’ Environment Law

  • 26/11/2015

Fish & Game says it will carefully review the government’s proposed changes to the Resource Management Act to ensure its existing environmental protections aren’t compromised.

The Environment Minister Nick Smith has just announced the Government will be going ahead with its long promised attempts to change the RMA, which Fish & Game views as New Zealand’s cornerstone environmental protection legislation.

Dr Smith says key changes will include changing the Act to address housing supply and affordability, speed up local body planning processes, narrow the number of issues on which consultation and notification are necessary and introduce standard planning templates for councils.

However, the Government appears to have backed down on its controversial efforts to change sections 6 and 7 of the RMA, which at the moment provide significant environmental bottom lines and help secure existing case law.

Dr Smith says the only change to these two sections will be to introduce the ability to manage any significant natural threats.

Fish & Game Chief Executive Bryce Johnson says his organisation will be closely scrutinising the changes and their implications.

“As always, the devil is in the detail. The RMA as it stands now is crucial to protecting our environment and Fish & Game has bottom lines on what changes will be tolerated. There are key parts of the Act which we see as untouchable and will fight to preserve.

Mr Johnson says Fish & Game will not accept any attempt to undermine or replace existing case law, restrict access to the Environment Court or extend private property rights in relation to water. It will examine the Government’s plans for sections 6 and 7 to see if they are in fact, as minor as the Government claims.

“These bottom lines are non-negotiable and we’ll strongly resist any efforts to undermine the law’s existing provisions in this regard.”

“In particular, it’s vital the Government’s proposed RMA changes don’t fetter access to the Environment Court where evidence is given under oath with full cross examination, or throw out decades of case law.”

Fish & Game is calling on the Government to allow a substantial period of time for the public to examine the Government’s proposed changes to the RMA, so they can digest them and provide a considered response.

“The RMA is far too important for changes to be rushed through, with a consultation period over the Christmas holidays when most people are distracted - off enjoying their summer holidays. The public wants time to make sure that the Bill isn’t back loaded with sneaky provisions to undermine the RMA’s existing purposes and principles.”

Fish & Game says the government needs to have an “open and honest” discussion with all New Zealanders about the Resource Management Act and explain fully and frankly why it needs to be changed.

“Fish & Game welcomes any discussion on environmental laws that will help better protect what we hold dear and a proper debate is the right way to do this. The public wants our fresh waters to be clean and safe for swimming, fishing and food gathering.

“We urge the Government to avoid the temptation to undermine this to favour agricultural intensification, when the industry must be made responsible for its adverse impact on the environment.

“The Government can’t do things in secret and must engage in open public debate,” Mr Johnson says.

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