Fish & Game NZ says suggested changes to the RMA would be an absolute disaster for the environment.
“The technical advisory group (TAG) seems to have gone way beyond its terms of reference, and indeed it smacks of political opportunism to fit a perceived Government ‘economic growth’ agenda,” says Fish & Game chief executive Bryce Johnson.
“This is being done under the guise of addressing ‘management of natural hazards’, urban and infrastructure development’, but these are already specified as a function of regional councils in some detail in sections 30 and 31 of the RMA.”
Mr Johnson says removing the clause 7(h) – which specifically references ‘protection of the habitat of trout and salmon’ – would lead to further water quality decline.
“Given the critical status of the water quality in our lakes and rivers, you have to ask: ‘Why would the Government want to remove one of the few statutory protection measures for freshwater ecosystems? You don’t have to be a political scientist to come up with the most probable answer.
“This would remove what water resource developers see as a roadblock to environmentally unsustainable development, enabling further and faster decline of freshwater quality. Make no mistake – any attempt to lessen the protection of trout and salmon habitat in the RMA is full-frontal attack on the environment.”
Because trout and salmon have the highest water quality requirements, section 7(h) protects all in-stream values of our freshwater resource – introduced and indigenous species alike. It has also given Fish & Game NZ a mandate for its advocacy around the protection of freshwater quality and quantity.
Lincoln University’s research reveals that the biggest environmental concern amongst New Zealanders is the country’s failing water quality. Mr Johnson says the Government should be doing something to address that level of worry, not the opposite.
“Putting economic benefits into sections 6 or 7 would tip the playing field away from the public interest when it comes to fresh water.
“The proposed changes to the RMA would strip away the very few statutory references we have to give some struggling integrity to the 100% Pure, clean green New Zealand brand.
“The TAG report also recommends axing the current s7(c) that requires the maintenance and enhancement of amenity values – this clause is central to the protection of outdoor recreation under the RMA.”