Government RMA Changes Ominous for Future of Water

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Government RMA Changes Ominous for Future of Water


Recent changes by government to the Resource Management Act pointed to a grim future for the public’s water and in particular rivers say the NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers (NZFFA).   

An annual report presented to the Federation’s annual general meeting recently held in Rotorua it was said the inescapable perception was that the proposed changes favoured economic development above environmental and recreational values.

Newly elected NZFFA president Graham Carter of Hamilton said it was significant that the vote for changes to the RMA in Parliament was narrow and only by support from the Maori and United Futures party MPs.

The Federation’s annual report said Environment Minister Nick Smith and government had substantially strengthened the ability of government by devolving more power to central government and less to local councils. 

“It's if deep concern that key aspects are that it is tantamount to legalising the degradation of the public's waterways, today and in the future. Water quality standards will be lowered. Alarmingly from a democratic perspective, there will be a reduction of input from regional and district councils and thereby the public’s voice.”

The moves to government domination were evident several years ago when government’s dumped the democratically elected Environment Canterbury (ECan) and replacing it with a council of government appointments.

Graham Carter said the moves over ECan and now the RMA were championed by government cabinet minister Nick Smith was ironic since Smith was charged with being the Minister for the Environment.   

The Federation was strongly opposed to the concept of tradeable water rights, i.e. the direct commercialization of water and ability to buy and sell water rights.  

"Water is essentially a public resource and must remain in the public domain,” said Graham Carter.

He said there were encouraging signs that the public was arousing itself from the “political apathy” that resulted in a million New Zealanders not voting at the 2014 election.

“A greater political will is necessary by the trout fishing public and all outdoors minded Kiwis over the water issue. It very probably will be a major issue in this year’s election.”

But there were some sections of society that denied that the public’s water resource was in danger of degradation.

"Management - or mismanagement - of waterways has a lack of community will. Federated Farmers NZ was so often in denial and indeed some spokesman portray trout as “evil introduced fish. Never mind the introduced cows,” he said.

However it was not just dairying as some local council still discharged raw sewage and stormwater into rivers and coasts. Among the “cocktail of chemicals” were modern detergents and cleansing agents such as chlorine. Chlorine was shown in 1971 to be lethal in very minute quantities to trout. 

Other influences were detrimental too. Monoculture of pine forests mainly now by foreign owned corporate companies, had a profound effect on stream flows with an insatiable thirst for water during growth. At clear felling time, a runoff of silt and debris resulted. 

"Environmentally in mega-monoculture form, they are detrimental,’ said Graham Carter.