Stop the Chop! Call for Action on the RMA Campaign
All eyes are now on Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith, wondering what he’ll do with his long-awaited review of Resource Management Act (RMA) reforms. It’s a good time time for a quick update on what’s been happening and a few more things that you can do to help.
A week ago our environment lawyer Sally Gepp took a star turn on Nelson’s Mainland TV. Sally was asked to talk about the government’s “Rules Reduction Taskforce” and RMA reform. Around the country, task-force members are on the road – hosting local meetings, asking for people’s stories about local “loopy rules”, and we wonder if it’s a fishing trip for bad news stories about the RMA.
As Sally told Mainland TV – for all of the process-based frustrations that people have with the Act, there are important things that the RMA does that matter to people and places too. Giving you more private property rights means that your neighbour or the local developer gets more rights too – so what happens when you want a say yourself, on what happens next door, or down the road? Is it the RMA at fault (by and large we don’t think so), or the application of it by decision-makers?
Last Friday Michael Tavares – a Forest & Bird member previously in the news for climbing a venerable Auckland kauri tree – entered his guilty plea to a trespass charge to be sentenced on 12 June. And because he can’t sit in every tree, Michael went on to organise a “Reclaim the RMA” day of social media action last Sunday. He asked people to gather around an important local tree – and ask the question: what can we do to make sure that rules are clear, trees are safe, and people can have a say on what matters in their local neighbourhood, so that it doesn’t come to this kind of confrontation?
We expect to see more of these local battles as changes to local planning rules made by the government in its 2013 RMA reform come into force on September 4 this year. The National Day of Action was a great example of how changes to the RMA have real life impacts on people and places – including significant trees, with all of the life that they support and services (eg, shade, shelter, stormwater drainage) that they provide. Now, wherever you are in New Zealand, trees not specifically listed in a schedule to your local district plan are not protected – however much they are loved. However mature, important and “notable” they may be. Any protections that they might previously have had have been repealed. Trees can be individually listed (usually by a property owner), but the reality is, this will rarely happen.
We opposed the 2013 changes and continue to lobby the government for them to be reconsidered. In the case of the kauri tree in Auckland, Maggie Barry (the Conservation Minister) was quick to ask the Department of Conservation to step in and express concern about what had gone on. But until the law is fixed, it comes down to local people like Michael and the Titirangi Save the Kauri community group – and here’s where you might come in.
Now, with the help of Thundermaps, we have created a map of the Great Trees of New Zealand. If you have a story to tell about a local important tree – a tree that’s under development threat, perhaps affected by the 2013 RMA changes, or just one that deserves to be on the map – we’re inviting you to put it on the map and tell your tree’s story.
In Forest & Bird’s work, the RMA is the foundation of so much that we, along with other environment groups, do. For example, our recent successes on the rules about freshwater quality and the Ruataniwha dam on the Tukituki river relied on the RMA, as do all local and national decisions about development, local planning, land use, coastal and high country landscapes, and so on. Even the oceans, out to 12 nautical miles, are the jurisdiction of the RMA. We’re deeply concerned that changes will undermine such gains.
What will happen next? We expect to see a draft RMA reform Bill introduced some time in the next few months – one that’s likely to make substantial changes, according to the Minister. Here’s what you can do to help us:
- Read more about what the RMA does with our FAQ’s.
- Find out what we think about some of the likely proposed changes.
- Get RMA updates and help us take action by signing up to our RMA campaign mailing list.
- Share this blog post and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates.
- Tell your story about a Great Tree of New Zealand in your area.