Environmental rules confused
The Government’s environmental rules for land users are getting confused, says Straterra CEO Josie Vidal.
Straterra, the industry association representing New Zealand minerals and mining sector, has submitted on the National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity – Exposure draft (NPS-IB), one of three submissions due in July, with critical rule changes that could severely impact responsible mining.
“There are a whole lot of environmental protection instruments in play, but no conductor pulling them together,” Vidal says.
“The result is discrepancies and inconsistencies across different sets of rules which could prevent the Government achieving its environmental protection goals. The mining industry strongly supports these goals and in fact, is active in environmental protection work, as we have outlined in our submission.
“But it appears the Government is determined to push through these regulations before the end of the election cycle with short consultation times and not a lot of listening. We question the value of this.
“The criteria in the NPS-IB for identifying areas that qualify as significant natural areas (SNAs) is clearly not workable and would have almost everywhere in New Zealand outside of urban boundaries eventually an SNA, putting an unacceptable burden on local councils who would have to map these areas.
“The outcome would be if everything is significant, then nothing is significant. Significant loses all meaning.
“Words matter in law and definitions are critical. We have questioned the meaning of maintenance in the NPS-IB, which differs from the definition in the primary legislation, the Resource Management Act (RMA).
“This is a technical document but you can’t have subordinate legislation overriding existing meanings that have been tested in case law.
“Straterra supports the intent of the NPS-IB, particularly that protecting, maintaining and restoring indigenous biodiversity provides for the social, economic and cultural wellbeing of people and communities now and into the future.
“Our main interest is submitting on the intent of new laws and rules, but in this instance, the technical details will lead to confusion and possibly the only people who will benefit will be lawyers who get to test the undefined or poorly defined terms through the courts.
“We hope to see a new exposure draft and have requested an opportunity to see this before it is finalised as it will be important to ensure the workability of the regulations from a mining perspective,” Vidal says.
In July Straterra submitted on the proposed changes to wetlands regulations, and the NPS-IB. Next week Straterra will file its submission on the Western South Island stewardship land reclassification.
Media contact: Josie Vidal, CEO Straterra, 022 377 0012