Minister proposes to reverse Govt law
The Government will attempt to reverse a National-led law change that has removed the public’s right to participate in discretionary resource consent processes, Environment Minister David Parker says.
The Resource Legislation Amendment Act 2017 also removed the right for applicants and submitters to appeal discretionary resource consent decisions made by district councils. The law came into effect on October 18.
Upper Clutha Environmental Society chairman Julian Haworth says the law threatens landscape protection and informed decision making. He was ‘‘ecstatic’’ Parker was supporting a law change.
‘‘It is great to see the new Government cares about landscapes. I’m rapt. Though, the council can do it much more quickly, if it wants,’’ Haworth said.
Last week, Haworth called for the Queenstown Lakes District Council to change the district plan so rural developments were all treated as non-complying, an approach the council’s planning and development general manager Tony Avery said the council did not intend to take.
The Queenstown Lakes District submitted against the law change when it went through Parliament.
After taking legal advice on the new law, it issued a practice note in October, stating all discretionary rural subdivisions would not be notified to the public. Only in limited, special circumstances can some people have a say.
Independent Queenstown planning barrister Warwick Goldsmith has queried whether the new practice is legally correct.
When former environment minister Dr Nick Smith’s amendment bill went through Parliament, Parker said it was ‘‘an appalling piece of legislation’’.
Parker told Stuff this week removing public notification and appeal rights was going ‘‘a step too far’’ for applicants and submitters. ‘‘We still think that was wrong. ‘‘We are intending to have some reform of the Resource Management Act and that would be one of the things that we would fix,’’ he said.
However, he did not want to give the impression a law change would be a quick fix.
Amending the act required ‘‘a big piece of work’’, he said.
‘‘We have the general view that we ought not to take away the public’s right to participate but we should make sure processes under the Resource Management Act are dealt with quickly
‘‘... we don’t think the right way to go is to rip people’s rights off them,’’ Parker said.
Landscape was one of the most precious things in Queenstown and Wanaka and if environmental watchdogs such as Haworth and the late Barry Lawrence had not fought to protect landscapes, the district would be very different today, he said.
Parker said he had two queries regarding the council’s practice note but he could not attempt to answer them: firstly, whether the council was appropriately applying the new law; secondly, whether an application for a ‘‘building platform’’ fell within the meaning of a ‘‘subdivision’’.
‘‘People will have to explore for themselves ... if the council is wrong and is acting ultra vires [beyond one’s legal power], that is not for me to determine.’’