Maori Party still battling government's RMA power grab

Issues remain relating to ministerial override powers.

The Maori Party continues to oppose ministerial override powers included in Resource Management Act reforms that returned to the floor of Parliament on Monday.

The party says it is continuing to negotiate with the government to preserve community input on issues such as a regional ban on genetically engineered crops.

The second reading of the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill came after it got stuck at the select committee stage for 14 months while the government ironed out numerous policy questions and sought accommodations with the Maori Party to allow the vexed reforms to proceed with a one-seat parliamentary majority.

While the new law contains beefed-up iwi participation rights in the resource consent process, reflecting Maori Party lobbying, co-leader Marama Fox said issues remained relating to ministerial override powers – that could be used to prevent, for example, a regional declaration of GE-free status – were still in play.

"We supported the second reading in good faith and look to the committee stages when amendments can be put forward to reflect our position," Ms Fox says.

The new ministerial powers in Section 360D remain widely opposed by submitters across the spectrum of the environmental law debate, from property developers to environmental groups.

Lawrence Yule, Local Government New Zealand chairman and a would-be National Party candidate in the general election this year, confirmed that both LGNZ and the Hastings District Council of which he is mayor continue to oppose the override conditions.

"As LGNZ, we support the removal of 360D," he said. "We think it's anti-democratic. Obviously, it causes me conflict because of my National role."

The override conditions have been attacked also by the RMA's original architect, former Labour Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer, and ACT MP David Seymour issued his own statement saying the reforms were "a shambles."

"(Environment Minister) Nick Smith acknowledges that he has yet to confirm the Maori Party's full support," Mr Seymour says. "National has committed so much time and political capital to this reform it won't back out now. The Maori Party know this, and will try to extract every possible concession during committee stage."

Ms Fox says the Māori Party remains "confident of ironing out areas of concerns within the Resource Legislation Amendments Bill (RLAB) before the third and final reading.

"The GM issue and s360D powers are major issues for us but we have also been active in ensuring communities still have a say and we are working through that with him at the moment."

(BusinessDesk)

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