New EPA could tame the RMA

Federated Farmers welcomes the new Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) but still has some reservations on how the new body will work and whether it will deliver the promised efficiencies.

“If the EPA can streamline Resource Management Act (RMA) processes then we’re all for it,” says Don Nicolson, Federated Farmers president.

“The concern is that the EPA could become another government funded environmental advocate. We worry that the Bill’s definition of the EPA’s intended functions and the scope of its objectives is very wide.

“This national body must deliver efficiencies from its takeover of the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) and administration of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), or the whole thing could be counterproductive.

“What we don’t want is for the EPA to duplicate functions from elsewhere.

“Federated Farmers supports a more centralised and uniform framework for implementing RMA processes. This should improve the management of natural resources, increase transparency and remove regional inconsistencies.

“It’s important that local authorities aren’t completely neutered. The EPA must not take decision making away from local communities or force additional ‘top down’ rules that local authorities are expected to implement with the costs passed on to ratepayers.

“We appreciate the desire to reduce unnecessary delays in major projects that are important for advancing infrastructure. The years it takes to get through the consent process does create too much cost and uncertainty. It makes economic sense to reduce those delays.

“The critically important factor remains the protection of property rights. Referring major projects directly to a ‘one stop shop’ for consenting mustn’t prevent affected individuals from having a say.

“Maintaining authority over property is a key tenet of the Federation.

“Federated Farmers also wants Government to consider introducing advisory committees to keep a check on the EPA’s progress as well as offering practical advice on the implementation of national standards.

“This will be a critical tool to allow the EPA to connect with industry and local communities ensuring that a good balance is struck between competing demands.

“The EPA must provide good independent advice from a technical and scientific standpoint, which will assist the Ministry for the Environment and the Minister himself to assist in proper decision making.

“The last thing our industry, or indeed any other, needs is more compliance costs, more regulatory hoops to jump through and more confusion. We have enough of that already,” Mr Nicolson concluded.

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