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NZ greens challenge Resource Management Act

Environmentalists are hitting out at Government plans to tweak the Resource Management Act to remove Bay of Plenty council control of the release of genetically engineered trees in the region. Source: Bay of Plenty Times

Green Party forestry spokesperson Steffan Browning said communities in the Bay as well as Northland and Hawke’s Bay will lose their right of protection under proposed legislation that would replace existing plan rules for many plantation forestry activities.

If implemented, the National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forestry would replace councils’ existing district and regional plan rules for managing plantation forestry.

However, Mr Browning said communities such as those in the Bay of Plenty should be alarmed as the proposed standard could still allow genetic engineering plus sedimentation from land disturbance “that will continue to wreck fisheries habitats and spawning grounds”.

The standard was proposed by Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith and Associate Primary Industries Minister Jo Goodhew at Paengaroa Forest last week.

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby said New Zealand was grossly over-regulated in many aspects and a national standard would provide a constant regulation.

“My view is that we need to take a New Zealand-wide approach of as many subjects we can. I generally support national standards,” he said.

However, Mr Crosby was less supportive of the proposed lack of local control of genetically modified organisms such as the trees.

“I think New Zealand has to be incredibly careful about that,” Mr Crosby said.

“The risk for that, on the worldwide stage, is that we are seen to be clean, green and natural. You might get a short-term financial gain but it might be long-term risk to our reputation, to our fishing, farming and primary industries.”

Dr Smith said the current system for environmental regulation of forestry was complex and confusing with thousands of different rules across New Zealand’s 78 councils.

The proposed standard would simplify the rules and save the industry millions in compliance costs.

The final proposals will incorporate feedback from submissions. If progressed, the National Environmental Standard would come into effect in 2016.

MPI is holding public meetings and hui to provide information, answer questions and seek feedback on the proposal.

The public meetings will focus on the National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF), while the hui will provide an opportunity to discuss the NES-PF and wider government forestry initiatives.

If you plan to attend email [email protected]

Bay of Plenty meetings are at 11am and 5.30pm on July 13 at the Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre, Fenton St, Rotorua.