Eight-year RMA reform saga enters home straight with GM carve-out

NZ First leader Winston Peters

Related Audio: Peter Dunne says it's not over yet for RMA reforms (Mar 31)

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The National Party's long-stalled second round of Resource Managment Act reforms have returned to Parliament, revealing the detail of a final concession to the Maori Party to allow local authorities to declare their regions free of genetically modified organisms.

The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill, which reforms six pieces of legislation including the RMA, reached the committee stages where several Supplementary Order Papers, containing last minute drafting changes that have not been examined in a public process before a select committee, were introduced.

The SOP from Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox covered the ability to carve out GMOs from the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act regime.

The bill spent most of last year stuck in the local government and environment select committee because the government had lost its parliamentary majority in the Northland by-election in March 2015, making it dependent on two votes from its three support partners, Act, United Future and the Maori Party, to pass legislation.

Neither Act nor United Future would support key parts of the RMA reforms, but the Maori Party used its votes to negotiate enhanced iwi participation arrangements in planning processes and, at the last minute, a "carve-out" on GM-free area declarations in return for supporting the rest of the bill.

The government had resisted the change because it insisted GM decisions should be dealt with under the HSNO Act, administered by the Environmental Protection Authority, and is enacting provisions giving wide ministerial override powers as part of a broader policy push to strengthen guidance from central government in the application of environmental standards and targets.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters attacked the Maori Party's wins, calling the provisions examples of "brownmail" by an "elite brorocracy" of Maori leaders, called on National Party MPs to "step back from the separatist abyss" by withdrawing the RLA Bill, and accused its leadership of having a "road to Ngaruawahia" conversion to the Maori separatist cause.

He vowed to support comprehensive RMA reform after the 2017 general election, a commitment already shared by every political party in Parliament as consensus mounts that the 17-year-old legislation is past its use by date and needs a fundamental overhaul.

A Productivity Commission report published last week all but recommended that outcome and was widely welcomed as a basis for reform.

To claims the Maori Party was trying to create a "parallel government", Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox says Mr Peters is on a "march back to colonisation" and that local governments were required to consult Maori under the existing RMA. The new provisions will strengthen the nature of that protection and will be a "value add to our regions, local governments, environment and this nation."

"This is not separatism. It's distributed democracy, giving a voice to minorities who would not otherwise have a voice," Ms Fox says.

Labour MP Meka Whaitiri, who has led Labour's attack on Ms Fox, says the Mana Whakahono a Rohe participation arrangements should have included carve-outs to prevent oil and gas exploration and fracking. She criticised the Maori Party for doing no more than including in legislation the kinds of arrangements that already exist widely between local governments and iwi.

Environment Minister Nick Smith acknowledged the compromise required with the Maori Party on GM-free declarations as part of MMP politics.

(BusinessDesk)


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I thought Apartheid was dead?

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The only thing viable is Winston as the kingmaker and his promise to repeal the legislation.
Think strategic voting this year

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Dare I say it but Winston is the only one with credibility here

All of the National MP's are outside of their mandates from the electortate or party vote - this was never their mandate.

We all laugh at the USA political environment and Trump etc. But at least the Republicans there had the balls to outvote Trump on Obamacare etc.
If the National Party muppets had any integrity they would vote aginst this Bill as would the Maori Party members who also have no political mandate

This Government is bent and will forever be tainted by this Bill if it passes
This will be their only legacy policy of any substance in 9 years and what bad policy it is

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"Distributed democracy"? What rubbish.

It's separatism - unacceptable discrimination - on the basis of often a smidgin of genetic inheritance. The political corruption of democracy now gathering even more momentum in this country.

Time to throw out this destructive government.

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I voted for a brighter future.
I got a corrupt one.
Thanks National.

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There is still time ,just, to throw this appalling piece of political pandering out and start again

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Winston is absolutely correct; the minority in question here is a small group of maori elite, not the 'maori people' many of whom identify as kiwis first. Just go to Ngaruawahia and see how far down the treaty riches of the Waikato settlement have trickled. It is hard to take Ms. Fox's claims of 'distributed democracy' seriously when the only minority she cares about is herself.

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Well said and so true

The Maori party has no mandate from Maori
Even at their current 4% polling that only represents about 15% to 20% of the Maori population.

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If National push this through, it will gift votes to Winston Peters and in turn see a Labour/Green/NZ First government in September.

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I wonder what influence and input Chris Finlayson has had in this matter ??

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A good point. Finlayson is best mates with Bill English. And a caustic tongue can take its owner a fair way to suppress opposition. Finlayson has Arguably already had far too much influence on treaty issues.
He has only ever been a list MP. He was never voted into parliament in the first place, so why he was given so much power so that he ended up letting iwi know to sidestep the courts and deal directly with him is quite scandalous, in the view of concern to New Zealanders. We all know that nothing of benefit to ordinary part Maori has come from these handovers to the tribal executives. What a disgraceful situation.

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