30 June 2024: Read the NZCA's submission on the Resource Management (Freshwater and other Matters) Amendment Bill 2024

The Legislative Basis for the New Zealand Conservation
Authority’s submission

  1. The New Zealand Conservation Authority / Te Pou Atawhai Taiao o Aotearoa
    (Authority, NZCA) is established under the Conservation Act 1987 (Act), with members
    appointed by the Minister of Conservation. It is an independent statutory body with a
    range of functions, but primarily acts as an independent conservation advisor to the
    Minister and the Director-General of Conservation.
  2. The Authority has a role as an objective advocate on matters of national significance
    and interest in the conservation arena and to provide high quality independent advice to
    the Department of Conservation (Department, DOC) on its strategic direction and
  3. The Authority has a range of powers and functions, under the Act, as well as under other
    conservation related legislation. Under the Act (section 6C(2)(c) refers) the Authority has
    the power to “advocate the interests of the Authority at any public forum or in any
    statutory planning process.”
  4. In accordance with the above powers and functions, the Authority submits on the
    Resource Management (Freshwater and other Matters) Amendment Bill (the Bill).

NZCA Submission

5. Some national policy documents developed under the RMA1 are particularly important
for controlling the impacts of activities within, or having effects on, public conservation
lands and waters and the coastal marine area. The Authority considers that a Board of
Inquiry process is appropriate for developing or making significant changes to national
policy. The alternative process does not have sufficient safeguards to ensure that
decisions are made in accordance with evidence and with due regard to effects on the
environment and cultural values. It opposes the removal of the Board of Inquiry option
(cls 11 – 17).
6. The Authority opposes removal of the requirement for the report to the Minister to
consider Part 2, submissions and evidence received (cl 11(9)). These are important
features that the Minister should be advised of, and take into account, when deciding to
make or change national policy. This change means proposals for new or changed
national direction will not be adequately assessed. This carries significant risk that
Minister’s decisions to recommend new or changed national direction will produce
national direction that does not implement the RMA1 sustainable management purpose
or its Treaty clause.
7. The RIS states that:2
Removal of the explicit reference to assessment of cultural effects from the
evaluation report may reduce the level of impact analysis on matters
considered important to Iwi/Māori. However, the Crown would continue to
consider submissions from Iwi/Māori and s 6(e), 7(a) and 8 matters of the
RMA … which would assist to mitigate the risk.
8. The Authority does not agree that this risk is mitigated. It is essential that an assessment
of cultural effects remains part of an evaluation report.
9. The RIS makes it clear that ‘no engagement has been undertaken on the preferred
option with Iwi/Māori, Post Settlement Governance Entities (PSGE), stakeholders or the
general public due to time constraints.3
This is concerning, particularly when coupled
with the short timeframe for submissions on the Bill and the lack of any proactive
engagement (e.g. national hui) on the Bill that we are aware of post its introduction. The
preparation of proposed changes that may reduce participation by iwi/Māori, or devalue
cultural effects, without any engagement is inappropriate and undermines the ability to
undertake an informed analysis of the proposal.
10. The Bill allows new coal mines and coal mine extensions, and their ancillary activities,
in significant natural areas and in wetlands (Sched 2). The Authority opposes these
changes because they increase the potential for significant adverse effects on the
environment, including conservation lands and waters, and will contribute to climate
change and associated harm to current and future generations.
11. The RIS states:4
Due to the limited time available, it has not been possible to engage with
iwi/Māori on these proposals nor fully assess the Treaty impacts, including on
the Crown’s Treaty settlement commitments.
As well as broad obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi to engage with
Māori on matters that will affect them, the Crown has specific commitments
through Treaty settlements to engage with post-settlement governance
entities on relevant policy matters under relationship agreements and
accords, including when preparing national direction. Where national
direction is amended through primary legislation, there remain relationship
risks if the Crown has not complied specific procedural or substantive
obligations in settlements related to preparing national directions. We have
not undertaken further analysis of those risks.

12. The Authority is concerned that there has been insufficient consultation with Māori and
potential for inconsistency with Treaty settlements. The Bill appears to conflate the
Crown duty in respect of the Treaty of Waitangi to one of being consistent and honouring
Treaty settlements, that appears to be a reductive approach that impacts the spirit of the
Treaty of Waitangi.
13. The Bill delays the date for identification of areas of significant indigenous vegetation
and significant habitat of indigenous fauna. The Authority considers that SNA
identification is a useful and sensible spatial planning approach, that is a key tool to
implement the Aotearoa New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy / Te Mana o Te Taiao, and
accordingly opposes this change.
14. The Bill prohibits consent authorities from considering Te Mana o Te Wai when deciding
whether to grant resource consents and what conditions to impose. Te Mana o Te Wai
represents a hierarchy in which the health needs of water come first. The Authority
considers that the hierarchy is appropriate given that people and communities are
existentially dependent on healthy freshwater, and that freshwater is a taonga which
must be protected under the Treaty. This change is opposed.
15. The Authority is concerned that the changes to the stock exclusion regulations and
intensive winter grazing regulations will result in poor environmental outcomes. The
Authority notes advice from the Department of Conservation that the removal of these
regulations would be a step backwards for freshwater, would impact adversely in New
Zealand’s image and primary sector marketing, and would be out of step with both the
direction that the majority of the drystock sector is heading in, and the efforts of many
groups and individuals to address the decline in freshwater quality and wetlands. 5

The Authority commends the Department for the clarity of its analysis and recommends that
the Committee places significant weight on it.
16. The Authority does not wish to be heard.

1 In particular the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management, the National Policy
Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity, and the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement. 

Supplementary Analysis Report: Streamlining National Direction Processes, page 13.

3 Op cit, page 3.

4 Supplementary Analysis Report: Amending the consenting pathway for coal mining in or around wetlands and
   significant natural areas, page 4.

5 DOC advice on Amendments to stock exclusion and intensive winter grazing regulations, 26 March
   2024.       freshwater-protections



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