The Māori Party says gains they will secure around the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill (RLAB) will strengthen kaitiakitanga for iwi and the protection of the environment, while balancing the nation's economic needs.
Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell says they have reached agreement with the Government on the legislation, and will be supporting the Bill through its remaining stages.
“We have identified key areas in the Bill as a priority and have negotiated amendments to the RMA which strike a balance between environmental protection and development,” says Te Ururoa.
Arrangements have been made for tangata whenua participation in RMA decisions through iwi authorities and councils.
Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox says there are also other proposed amendments that will enhance the participation of iwi as kaitiaki of natural resources within their rohe.
“Iwi have a role as kaitiaki of our natural resources based on the spiritual and cultural relationship they have always had with the environment,” she says.
“Māori therefore must be given a crucial role in the management of these resources including our rivers, mountains and national parks. It is our responsibility and right to protect, restore and enhance the environment.”
The mechanism proposed to achieve kaitiakitanga in the new Bill is through Mana Whakahono ā Rohe Agreements.
“The principles underpinning mana whakahono agreements will ensure both iwi and councils have a mutually agreed understanding of how iwi will be involved and what is required of iwi and councils,” says Te Ururoa.
“This will also support wider stakeholders understanding of why, how and when they are required to engage with iwi.”
Some aspects of the agreements include:
• Pulling back the regulation-making powers of the Minister under Section 360D so communties can have their say
• Collaborative planning process to encourage greater public engagement and solutions
• Strengthening of requirements to manage natural hazard risks
• New provisions to enable stock exclusion from waterways
• Planning processes to reduce costs and delays in the process whilst still protecting the environment
• The enabling of appeals on merit where there is no consensus in the Collaborative Planning Process
• Environment Court judge as part of the review panel to hear submissions under the Collaborative Planning Process
• Appeals possible on merit, if a council deviates from the recommendations of the Review Panel otherwise on points of law
• The removal of the majority of the proposed restrictions on the involvement in applications that are limited notified
• Submission strikeouts to be discretionary rather than mandatory,
• The removal of alternative consenting authorities.
“Mana Whakahono a Rohe agreements go beyond anything that currently exists for Māori outside of a Treaty Settlement. This Bill gives iwi a chance to engage like they haven't been able to do before.
“What we have to remember is the content of Mana Whakahono agreement are to be negotiated between council and iwi they are not prescribed.”
Marama says the Māori Party know many of the homeless in those communities are our people.
“So we have been putting in place better collaborative agreements to reduce pressure on councils and improve the decisions made at a local level. This is why Mana Whakahono is important.
“However this should not be at the detriment to this country's natural and cultural taonga. The Māori Party is confident the changes advocated for in the RMA amendments better balance development and kaitiakitanga.
“What this shows is the Māori Party cares about the environment, we are the voice of reason and we can work with any party to achieve a good outcome for Māori and all of New Zealand.”