Friday, February 23, 2024

Time to get RMA reform right

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Federated Farmers will be pushing hard for changes that will unlock the potential of our productive sectors and rural communities. 
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By Mark Hooper, Federated Farmers national board member and resource management spokesperson

New Zealand farmers are on the brink of a significant shift, with the new Government planning a much-needed rewrite of the Resource Management Act (RMA). 

Thankfully, the new Government has indicated that Labour’s fatally flawed RMA reforms, passed into law earlier this year, will be repealed by Christmas, paving the way for a rewrite that’s fairer and much more practical for farmers.

The RMA is the most significant piece of legislation for farmers and touches almost every aspect of our lives. It also happens to be where most of the unworkable regulation from the last few years seems to be housed. 

Freshwater rules proposing dramatic stocking rate reductions – that’s driven by directives in the RMA. Winter grazing rules – that’s RMA as well. Significant Natural Areas? You guessed it.

These rules simply must go. A new system needs to be put in place that properly rebalances the scales, allowing us to protect the environment while letting farmers get on with their job.

Major reform is desperately needed. We can’t afford to wait another decade for change, and we can’t let excuses get in the way. We are demanding the Government deliver a new regime over the next three years. 

Federated Farmers will be pushing hard for changes that will unlock the potential of our productive sectors and rural communities. 

We need to see a clear split between the natural environment rules and the built environment rules. It’s ludicrous to use the same rules for protecting our great natural areas as we do for building a home or shed. A one-size-fits-all approach just isn’t working. 

We also need to see new rules that clearly balance the property rights of landowners with the relevant interests of central and local government. This will likely require new ways of thinking about regulation. 

Instead of the Government simply telling farmers that areas of their farm are now classified as ‘Significant Natural Areas’, a property-rights-driven approach would look to use existing institutions like the Queen Elizabeth II Trust to negotiate a mutually beneficial arrangement. 

Resource management laws will be most effective if they can recognise the different environmental contexts and priorities across the country.

We’ll still need systems to manage environmental protection and building needs, but more responsibility should be given to regional and local governments to match their communities’ needs. This would give local voices more say. 

Federated Farmers strongly believes RMA reform offers the possibility for transformation in the agricultural sector. We’ll be working hard to ensure these reforms deliver for farmers.

Federated Farmers, New Zealand’s leading independent rural advocacy organisation, has established a news and insights partnership with AgriHQ, the country’s leading rural publisher, to give the farmers of New Zealand a more informed, united and stronger voice. Feds news and commentary appears each week in its own section of the Farmers Weekly print edition and online.

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