Federated Farmers is worried proposed replacement resource management legislation focuses only on streamlining urban development and will make it harder, not easier, to farm in New Zealand.
“The government has gone out of its way to emphasise there will be less resource consents for infrastructure and housing. However down on the farm, it’s hard to see how the new law won’t see even more environmental red tape for farmers,” Feds national board member and resource management spokesperson Mark Hooper says.
“The proposed new Natural and Built Environment Bill includes a strict focus on the environment, a shift away from local democracy, decision making that is diluted into regional committees and a new framework for water allocation.”
The bill, which is now at select committee stage, is the first of three new pieces of legislation to replace the current Resource Management Act.
Resource management law needs to strike a balance between looking after the environment and allowing people to earn a living, Mark says.
“The proposed replacement Bill looks set to shift the focus away from current ‘sustainable management’ to a purpose statement that is singularly focused on environmental protection.”
Not only must resource use avoid impacts on the environment, it must now promote outcomes for the benefit of the environment.
“Under the proposed new law it will be harder, not easier, for farmers to obtain resource consents.”
Federated Farmers argues New Zealand needs to wake up to the reality that our economy can no longer be taken for granted. In the last few years tourism, international education and the energy sector have suffered major setbacks.
The new Natural and Built Environment Bill now proposes to change how freshwater and other water is allocated in New Zealand.
“And our big earner, agriculture, is staring down the barrel of emission charges that could see sheep and beef exports fall by 20 percent. Flawed resource management legislation, potentially putting more costs and delays for our producers on top of this, makes it tough to develop new economic sectors in our rural communities,” he says.
“That and the rise of blanket pine planting on productive farmland could be the final nail for many provincial towns.”
New Zealand has allocated resources in the past based on a ‘first in first served’ approach. The new Bill proposes allocating resources based on the principles of sustainability, efficiency and equity. The Bill states that a market-based approach must not be used for the taking of freshwater.
“This change has come completely out of the blue for Federated Farmers.
“All farmers need water. Whether for irrigation, stock water, shed water and the ecological value it brings, it’s the lifeline farmers rely on, value and respect.
“Farmers are fatigued with the huge level of reform in the last three years, now isn’t the time to change the way water and nutrients are allocated in New Zealand.”
“Water allocation is an incredibly hard policy area to address. It’s worth having a process to discuss this, but the government has jumped straight to a conclusion, not bringing farmers with them. Options like market-based approaches shouldn’t be taken off the table without thorough consultation.”
Also of great concern to Federated Farmers and rural communities is that the new RMA bill accelerates the shift away from local decision making by elected representatives, in favour of centralising to 14 regional planning committees.