11 Dec 2012

Controversial RMA changes bad for trees, communities

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Published: Forest and Bird media release 11 December 2012

The Resource Management Amendment Bill 2012, to have its first reading in Parliament this afternoon, is being called non-controversial by Minister Amy Adams, but is of serious concern for urban trees, birdlife, and communities wanting a say in their own destiny, Forest & Bird said today.

“And our biggest concern is that this is only the start, with the Minister saying that further substantial reform of the RMA will continue in 2013,” Conservation Advocate Claire Browning says.

The Bill, which contains many technical and non-controversial RMA changes, also provides that a Government-appointed board will decide Auckland’s first unitary plan, with limited appeal rights. A six-month time limit for processing consents for medium-sized projects is also proposed.

“It’s Environment Canterbury all over again, without the inconvenience of having to sack the regional council,” Claire Browning says. “A workable process for doing the Auckland plan does need to be put in place. But it is not the Government’s place to appoint the board, while at the same time putting constraints on anybody else’s right to challenge it.”

The six-month resource consent time limit would be another roadblock to communities having their proper say on big projects that really affect them. With a current average decision-making time of nine months on resource consents, Claire Browning says that obstacles to community participation in RMA decision-making are already large enough, without making them even greater.

“The developer works for years putting a proposal together, then for the community, it’s six months from a standing start, having to understand the proposal, inform residents, gather evidence including expert evidence, write submissions, fundraise if they wish to take the matter to court – all on their own time and cost.”

The Bill would also mean big changes for metro trees, and people trying to protect and establish leafiness and birdlife in their suburbs. Urban trees, as well as providing homes for birds, and supporting ecosystems, raise the amenity values of people’s own homes, and living enjoyment. According to Claire Browning, the proposals are bizarre, given the Government’s own RMA policy, which has been to simplify and streamline wherever possible.

“The Minister is proposing a huge bureaucracy here, with the need to specify every protected tree or line or group of trees by reference to land description. The reality is, it won’t happen. Trees won’t be protected, and we will all be poorer for it. “The RMA is not perfect, and Forest & Bird supports its improvement, but not at the cost of these things at the heart of urban community and city life,” Claire Browning says.

Contact: Claire Browning, Conservation Advocate, ph 027 490 8344


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