Government RMA Changes Diminish Democracy (Special Report)

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Government RMA Changes Diminish Democracy (Special Report)


Changes by Government to the Resource Management Act have lessened the democratic voice of the public over rivers and water quality and quantity, says the NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers. In an annual report to the Federation’s annual general meeting held recently in Rotorua it was noted the changes were only passed narrowly through Parliament with the aid of the Maori and United Futures party votes. 

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

The perception was that the proposed changes favoured economic development above environmental and recreational values.

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. 

"This was evident several years ago in government’s takeover of the democratically elected Environment Canterbury (ECan) and replacing it with a council of government appointments."  

NZFFA has had another very active year with submissions on a variety of issues, published press releases and letters to the editor.  The Federation is “apolitical” i.e. without any bias or prejudice to any one political party.  However this does not inhibit the federation from judging and publicly commenting on policies of government which may environmentally enhance or erode thus affecting the quality and quantity (flow) of the public’s freshwater resource and public’s trout and salmon fisheries.

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.”

Addressing the forthcoming general election, the Federation said apathy and non-voting was a danger in itself to getting responsible government.     

“A greater political will is necessary by the trout fishing public - indeed the outdoor recreation public overall.  Other lobby groups do not baulk from such activity, e.g.: Forest and Bird, Environmental Defence Society."
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," said the report.

However it was not just dairying as local councils 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. 

Monoculture of pine forests mainly now by foreign owned corporate companies, have a profound effect on stream flows with an insatiable thirst for water during growth. Then at clear felling time, a runoff of silt and debris results. Environmentally as mega-monocultures, they are detrimental.

The Federation addressed restructuring of the organisation to ‘streamline’ itself to modern communications and efficiencies.

Election of officers:- President: Graham Carter (Hamilton); Treasurer: Strato and Carmen Cotsilinis; Executive: Ian Rodger (Auckland), Alan Simmons (Turangi), Steve Gerard (Methven), Rex Gibson (Canterbury), David Haynes (Nelson) with life members co-opted (Ken Sims, Sandy Bull, and Tony Orman).