The National Government is actively undermining environmental protection and looks likely to obstruct local councils seeking to safeguard water quality, the Green Party said today.
Primary Industries Minister David Carter this morning signalled the Government’s intention to amend the RMA to make it harder for councils to use plan rules to protect the environment by controlling nutrient leaching to waterways.
"The Government should not be pressuring councils to abdicate their responsibility under the RMA to protect our environment," said Green Party environment spokesperson Eugenie Sage.
"Changing the RMA to impose a more onerous cost benefit (s32) test on councils whenever they are considering policies and rules to control the impacts of agricultural intensification would be a further obstacle to cleaning up our rivers and lakes, and to safeguarding our aquifers.
"There is a pattern - National is amending the RMA, gutting the ETS, it forced the Department of Conservation to vote against protecting Maui’s dolphins from extinction, and it has cancelled comprehensive environmental reporting. Now it intends to stymie the belated action by councils to control intensive agriculture.
"This Government doesn’t care about the environment and doesn’t want it getting in the way of its unsustainable development agenda.
"Minister Carter’s criticism of the Environment Court’s modest efforts on the Manawatu One Plan to safeguard rivers from excess nutrients signals that the National Government does not care about protecting our rivers, lakes and aquifers.
"If the Minister wants a productive and profitable farming sector he should be seeking to protect the environment on which it depends.
"The Environment Court’s robust decision in the One Plan case showed that farming should not be at the expense of the environment. As the Court said: ‘.. we conclude that the economic costs for a majority of farms will be manageable across a span of years, and thoroughly justified by the desired outcome..’ (para 5-174) and ‘there is nothing that gives farmers a privileged place in the scheme of things.’ (para 5-176).
"MAF, now part of MPI, previously withdrew its submission against the Manawatu One Plan.
"This is recidivist behaviour from a Ministry which can’t accept that we need limits to intensive agriculture and that a profitable agricultural sector relies on a healthy environment.
"This Government’s one eyed focus on agricultural intensification is at the expense of the environment and water quality," said Ms Sage.