Thursday, July 05, 2012

Perverting the RMA

What do you call environmental legislation that does not protect the environment? The Resource Management Act, if National has its way!

One of the core parts of the RMA is Section 6. This lays out certain "matters of national importance", which everyone exercising powers under the Act must "recognise and provide for". These include the preservation of the natural character of the coastal environment, and the protection of outstanding natural features, significant vegetation and habitats, and historical heritage.

This annoys National's orcs, who see the requirement to protect these things as a barrier to development. So they convened a "Technical Advisory Group" of cronies and told them to look at it. That group has now reported back - and recommended a new section 6. This new section does not use the word "protection" once. Oh, the value of the coastial environment, outstanding national features, significant vegetation and habitats, and historical heritage must be recognised - but there's no requirement to protect it.

And it gets worse: they've also recommended adding a few clauses, requiring local bodies to recognise and provide for

  • The significant benefits to be derived from the use and development of natural and physical resources
  • The planning, design and functioning of the built environment, including the reasonably foreseeable availability of land for urban expansion, use and development
  • The planning, design and functioning of significant infrastructure

So, instead of protecting the environment, we will have a developer's charter, requiring local authorities to encourage mining and urban sprawl, and giving a blank cheque to whatever crazy roading project Gerry Brownlee wants to buy votes with.

Naturally, none of this is mentioned in National's press release. That's all about "recognising natural hazards" (an utterly uncontentious idea, the omission of which should be corrected).

This is a fundamental perversion of the RMA, away from environmental protection and towards blanket statutory approval of development. National's orcs, who want to dig up, cut down, or pave over everything in sight, will be pleased. But I'm not so sure the New Zealand public will be.