The government should be applauded for a proper consultation process on replacement RMA legislation but Federated Farmers has significant concerns about local democracy being stripped away.
Reacting to the release today of an ‘exposure’ draft of the Natural and Built Environments Act, Feds Vice-President and resource management spokesperson Karen Williams said it was pleasing this initial round of submissions and select committee inquiry would be followed by a second select committee process early next year.
“If the poor process around the production of the unworkable Essential Freshwater regulations has taught us anything, it is to carry out a thorough and genuine consultation process, as distinct from the secret and exclusive process that led to that mess.
“A two-step consultation process for this first phase of replacement resource management laws is welcome,” Karen said.
However, Federated Farmers is deeply concerned with proposals to place decisions affecting local communities in the hands of unelected regional planning committees, with at most one person representing each local authority, an as yet undefined number representing mana whenua and one representative of the Minister of Conservation.
“That stripping away of local democracy undermines the ability of local communities to have a real say – via duly elected councils – on fundamental aspects of what happens in their own neighbourhoods.”
This seems to be a backwards step to a centralised prescribed planning regime as opposed to a resource management approach that is tailored by the local community, Karen said.
Federated Farmers is also worried that elevation of the precautionary principle and changes like the requirement for councils to promote afforestation to tackle climate change will mean the ability of the agricultural sector to underpin the economic and social welfare of the nation – let alone the nation’s post COVID-19 recovery – will be further strangled.
“A raft of new, undefined terms and concepts has the potential to be a feeding frenzy and gravy train for planners and lawyers over the next decade as these terms and concepts are argued over and finally defined by the courts.
“What resources local authorities and government have would be far better spent on environmental improvement and protection work, and efforts to drive our sagging economy,” Karen said.