RMA Bill could see investors looking elsewhere

28 Apr 2003

The forest industry believes investment in the further processing of logs in New Zealand is likely to be discouraged if the Resource Management Amendment Bill is passed in its present form.

Speaking today to the Opposition's informal RMA 'Select Committee', NZ Forest Owners Association chief executive Rob McLagan said proposed changes amount to "fiddling at the fringes".

"Little has been done to address serious underlying problems with the Act."

The submission was presented on behalf of the NZ Forest Industries Council and the NZFOA by Mr McLagan and Peter Sligh, a member of the industry's joint environmental committee.

Mr McLagan said the industry did not wish to undermine the environmental objectives of the legislation, nor the legitimate participation of the public in the decision-making process.

"However, if the Bill is not changed, we're unlikely to see the industry processing 50 per cent of the increased harvest in New Zealand, an objective we share with the Government. I can see potential investors looking elsewhere to invest.

"The tragedy is that regions in desperate need of growth and jobs will miss out."

Mr McLagan said some key aspects of the Bill now before the House have not been widely debated. Nor have they been through the formal Select Committee process, despite Government claims to the contrary.

"The new provisions relating to Historic Heritage, and National Standards and National Policy Statements are either new or highly contentious. The public should be given the opportunity to provide their views on the issues before a full Parliamentary Select Committee," he said.

"The forest industry believes a number of the proposed changes will significantly increase uncertainty about investing in new processing capacity in New Zealand.

"The provisions relating to Historic Heritage in particular could take years to be clarified through Court decisions, unnecessarily delaying important decision making processes.

"In the meantime, unnecessary RMA-imposed costs of doing business in New Zealand could see millions of dollars invested in competitor countries to the detriment of all New Zealanders."

Mr McLagan said the public should also have the opportunity to test the motivation for the Government's sudden interest in the preparation of new National Policy Statements.

"Is it simply an attempt to provide a faster, less costly route for Government to undertake its own development projects for increased electricity generation and road development? If so, the private sector should be able to play by the same rules," he observed.

"If the current legislation is seen as an unreasonable barrier to environmentally sustainable national development, changes should apply to all development projects and not simply to those of direct interest to the Government.

"The Government has decided to deny the public the ability to exercise its democratic rights of public submission on an issue of great importance to them. This leaves the Government open to a cynical response from business and the wider community."