Wednesday, 16 November 2016 11:55

RMA reforms back on Government’s agenda

Written by 
Environment Minister Nick Smith. Environment Minister Nick Smith.

Reform of the Resource Management Act (RMA) looks set to go ahead, the Government having reached a deal for the support of the Maori Party.

The Government’s attempts to reform the RMA have been stymied in recent years.

Last November, Environment Minister Nick Smith announced it had backed off proposed changes to the RMA. The Maori Party agreed at the time to back the legislation through to select committee hearings, after the Government lost its majority in the Northland by-election.

Concessions to win the Maori Party’s support include giving iwi the right to be consulted “at the front end” of resource management and council planning via iwi participation agreements.

Smith announced last week that the Maori Party will now support the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill, intended to speed up planning and consent laws.

Smith says agreement on the details of “iwi participation agreements” – giving Maori greater involvement in the consenting process – will get the numbers needed to pass the legislation.

Smith says the bill will again be referred back to the select committee, and a 500-page departmental report will be considered. The work might be completed this year, but “may flow” into early 2017, Smith says.

The Government might also need to consult the Maori Party on the detailed drafting of the bill when it is reported back to Parliament, to ensure it is consistent with their agreement.

Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell says the changes the party negotiated with the Government ensures the environment will be protected, and co-leader Marama Fox says other amendments will give iwi greater involvement.

“Iwi have a role as kaitiaki [guardians] of our natural resources based on the spiritual and cultural relationship they have always had with the environment. Maori must therefore be given a crucial role in the management of these resources including rivers, mountains and national parks.”

The Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group supported the “significant gains” won by the Maori Party, deputy chairman Mark Solomon saying they would “create a new opportunity for iwi and hapu to engage with councils in a more equitable way”.

Federated Farmers says it is pleased to see the Government getting on with the job of reforming resource management legislation.

The return of the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill to the select committee will be well received by Feds members, says RMA spokesperson Chris Allen.

“This process has been long and drawn out, and I’m sure many Kiwis had been thinking this Government wouldn’t be able to get this done.”

Allen says Feds will be watching with particular interest to see the detail in the proposed legislation on new provisions for keeping stock out of waterways.

“This is a hot topic for us. We are working with councils and our members all over the country on this issue,” Allen said. “Ensuring the provisions are practical, workable and affordable will be a high priority for us.”

 

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