RMA review must not overlook public interest

Dr Cathy Strong.

The Government’s review of the Resource Management Act has been welcomed by Massey University academic Dr Cathy Strong, but she says the focus should not be on cutting costs for developers.

“I applaud today’s announcement that the 30-year-old Resource Management Act is going to be reviewed,” she says, “but top of the agenda for the review should be the need for the public to know what is planned in their neighbourhood.

“More requirements for public notification of projects is paramount to preserve New Zealand’s special environment.”

Dr Strong, a senior lecturer with the School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing, is concerned the main reason for the review seems to be to cut costs.

“Cutting costs for developers should not override the crucial need to keep projects transparent and accountable to the public. We need to make sure developments and large change of land-use get public notification,” she says. 

“When the Resource Management Act first came in it was a breath of fresh air for ensuring local authorities systematically gave permission for building projects that may impact on the environment, or cut down public access to natural resources.

“Recently, however, there have been numerous complaints of projects not being revealed to residents beforehand. People want to know what is going on in their region and can point out valuable issues that need to be addressed. It is a case of KWIMBY – knowing what is in my back yard – and not necessarily a case of being for or against developments.”