MINISTRY FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
IMPROVING OUR RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
Submission: By email: rmreform(at)mfe(dot)govt(dot)nz
Submitter: Historic Places Aotearoa Incorporated
Address: PO Box 693
021 1844 689
This submission is made by Historic Places Aotearoa Inc. (HPA). HPA was formed in 2010 as a national non-government organization to replace the role of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) in representing and co-ordinating the activities of new regional societies to replace Branch Committees of the NZHPT. NZHPT Branches are to be disestablished under current proposed legislation – the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Bill.
Heritage is HPA’s core business to promote preservation of historic places in Aotearoa New Zealand. We also promote the education of the public in the appreciation of heritage values. We are a key stakeholder in the consultation process and answerable to our affiliated regional societies and membership.
2 HERITAGE IN NEW ZEALAND
History tells the story of our past, and an important part of our story is about journeys across the Pacific by Maori, whalers, explorers and settlers of many origins, and of the homes, businesses and places they and their following generations built and created here.
New Zealand’s landscape is rich in historic places that are inseparable from our national and cultural identities. Historic places, wahi tapu, and the places of significance to our many peoples help us to remember, to learn, to belong and to share our stories with others. It is through the tangible evidence of our built and natural cultural heritage that our stories are keeping the past alive for us and for future generations.
Built heritage provides inspiration for artistic creativity, a foundation for tourism and economic development, a welcome for return travellers and a beacon for who we are as New Zealanders.
But even though there is a growing interest in heritage and recognition of its social, cultural, environmental and economic benefits, and awareness of its importance to our national identity – we are still losing heritage places at an unacceptable rate and the ongoing conflict between heritage protection and development pressures continues.
3 THE PROPOSED REFORM PACKAGE
This is a submission on the RMA Improving our resource management system a discussion document.
The specific proposals that HPA wishes to address are those relating to historic heritage matters and these are highlighted.
HPA is concerned at what it sees as an attempt to weaken controls over historic heritage, such controls that need and should be controlled in the public interest.
HPA is aware that the protection of historic heritage was upgraded only a few years ago from a section 7 "other matter" to be considered, to a section 6 "matter of national importance" because central government believed heritage was not being given sufficient weight. The present Government's argument is that these matters are covered by the broad concern of section 5, but HPA believes it is important that these are also specifically identified so they can be specifically referred to in planning processes.
In response to Outstanding issues and Opportunities (p16) HPA strongly disapproves of the way the RMA is moving away from its original intent and is basically allowing for the effects of development to gradually downgrade our environment. To get a development through it needs to be proven that the effects will be less than minor. This implies that as long as what the development does is only slightly worse than current, it is OK. This implies that we are therefore constantly and consistently making things incrementally worse for the environment. The challenge should be to prove that the effect of a development is an improvement or at worst no change to the environment.
In response to Resource Management system that does not reflect up-to-date values (p19) it is alleged that the RMA does not reflect today’s values and priorities. From HPA’s
experience heritage is a critical part of today’s values and priorities and this is reflected in many conservation projects, interpretation and signage, open days, heritage trails and emerging organisations such as HPA.
Heritage forms the basis to economic development, cultural capital and tourism in many areas. For example in: Arrowtown, Oamaru, Waimate, Dunedin, Napier, Greytown, Martinborough, Parnell, Akaroa, Kerikeri, Hokitika, Invercargill, Lawrence, Clyde to name just a few. There are many small and large businesses - heritage operators, cafes, shops, tourist services, boutique hotels, bed and breakfasts that promote the cultural capital of New Zealand.
While many tourists are attracted by ‘pure’ New Zealand, they actually want to stay, visit and eat at heritage locations. Furthermore New Zealand’s great outdoors and recreation has a strong heritage component as evidenced by the proliferation of heritage cycle trails throughout the country.
4. SPECIFICALLY OPPOSED BY HISTORIC PLACES AOTEAROA
3.1.1 Changes to the principles contained in sections 6 and 7 of the RMA
The changes proposed are to remove section 6(f) historic heritage as ‘matters of national importance’.
To replace matters of national importance, principles are suggested as part of a ‘balanced approach’ additional to a number of other matters including infrastructure, efficient energy use etc.
The removal of ‘matters of national importance’ is a fundamental change to planning legislation and the consequences of such a change will be significant.
The changes remove the directional wording of section 6(f) being the ‘protection of historic heritage….’ This will result in greater uncertainty as to how the importance and value of historic heritage is actually provided for - directional wording has always been an aspect of the matters of national importance.
The changes remove the existing inappropriateness test from section 6(f). This currently helps to ensure changes to heritage places are appropriate, rather any sort of ‘blanket ban’ on changes to historic heritage.
Section 6(f) refers to protection from "inappropriate" development. HPA believes that s6 does not prevent good economic development but in fact the s6 matters are matters to be specifically considered. They do not veto development in any way. As the Courts have frequently reminded us, they are subservient to the overall sustainable management purpose of the Act set out in section 5. Rather than weakening the Act by deleting them, the Government could add other matters if it is similarly considered that those matters are not being given sufficient consideration. HPA comments that this would be more transparent.
The changes include a reference to ‘specified’ landscapes, indigenous vegetation which imply a limit on application of section 6 (possibly to only those places listed in a regional or district plan?).
HPA strongly supports:
- the retention of sections 6 and 7
- ‘matters of national importance’ that are recognised and provided for
- retention of directional wording terms such as ‘preservation, protection, maintenance, enhancement, conservation and so on’.
If section 6(f) is to be changed HPA suggests that wording be ‘protection and management of historic heritage from inappropriate subdivision, use and development.
5. OTHER COMMENTS BY HISTORIC PLACES AOTEAROA
3.1.2 Improving the way central government responds to issues of national importance and promotes greater national direction and consistency
HPA notes the irony of the proposal to remove matters of national importance from the RMA while also seeking greater direction and consistency on the management of ‘nationally significant resource management issues of the day’.
3.1.3 Clarifying and extending central government powers to direct plan changes
Section 25A of the RMA currently contains powers to direct plan changes, but these powers lack clarity and process. While HPA is supportive of greater clarity and process with regards to section 25A, it would be concerned about the proposal to directly amend an existing operative plan (as opposed to the power to direct plan changes) unless it was in an emergency situation or post-disaster such as that following the Canterbury earthquakes. The process of plan making should remain with local government and follow the democratic Schedule 1 process.
HPA notes that the Minister already has a mechanism to influence councils' plans through National Policy Statements (s45-55 RMA). Secondly, with heritage and other resource management matters there has always been room for councils to have preferences and priorities, within the constraints of the Act. That is a cornerstone of our world-renown RMA system and is fundamental to the effectiveness of the system. Making up lists of heritage items and deciding what level of protection they deserve is time consuming and controversial, but once settled and recorded in district plans, there is political and community buy-in to the compromises reached. Plan provisions imposed by a Minister could not have that.
3.5 Limiting the scope of participation in consent submissions and appeals
The majority of submissions and third party of appeals are focused on the reasons why the application was notified and the effects related to those reasons. Further, it would be a difficult undertaking to sort out submissions that are focused on the notified plan reasons and those that raise other matters of general public interest (sometimes in the one submission).
If the proposal is followed it will reduce the information available to the decision makers which can arise from a wider right of submission and the effect will also be that scope of submissions will tend to be dictated by what applicants choose to provide. For example in a situation where a subdivision may have adverse impact on archaeological sites this would not be a valid ground for submission under the proposed change if the Council only notified the consent on the basis of more than minor impact on traffic.
Considering the small percentage of notified consents and the proposed changes in the Resource Management Reform Bill 2012, HPA does not consider the need for legislative change.
HPA opposes the reduced public participation.
3.3.6 Changing consent appeals from de novo to appeals by way of rehearing
HPA considers that the proposal to reduce appeal rights to the Environment Court is problematic. At present the environment court hearing is a hearing de novo which means new evidence can be introduced which is useful, as information may only become apparent during the course of the hearing. Under the proposals it would be a rehearing of the same submission as the Council had heard. This lessens the likelihood of an evolution in the proposal to accommodate new and further concerns and information raised by submitters. The environment court hearing is more rigorous with test of unsubstantiated evidence.
Moreover, the current plan and consent processes are informal forums and provide an opportunity for the members of the public to have input. With restricting Environment Court appeals and the introduction of independent hearings panels, the risk of the informal forum nature of the plan and consent process is lost.
HPA submits that the changes proposed to sections 6 and 7 in the discussion document together with the proposed changes in the Resource Management Reform Bill with the introduction of new benefit and cost analysis in terms of environmental, economic, social and cultural effects will exacerbate the demise of our historic heritage.
If the s.32 economic growth and employment issues are introduced it makes the RMA unbalanced and changes it from its original intention to manage natural and physical resources. Planning may be related to economic values but it should not have the ability to direct economic growth and create employment.
HPA further submits that the proposed changes with regard to s32, clause 69 (new section 32(2)(a)(i))ii)) in the RMA Reform Bill and s.6 and 7 in the discussion document will collectively convey negative implications for the values of historic heritage in New Zealand.
HPA recommends to the Minister for the Environment that better than adding ‘specified’ into section 6, a more efficient way would be to provide key definitions in the Act or guidance in the form of national policy statements.
HPA strongly supports retention of protection of historic heritage as a matter of national importance.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit on the RMA Improving our resource management system a discussion document.
Dated 28 March 2013
Dr Anna Crighton
Historic Places Aotearoa.