New Zealanders value their environment. We are blessed with the great outdoors, beautiful beaches and a rich diversity of nature in our very own back yard. It is what gives us that unique quality of life that is makes us the envy of the world.
And we have these natural spoils because Kiwis before us have worked tirelessly to put in place sensible laws that ensure we protect our heritage, our land and our values. And we should be proud of these achievements.
Yet, the very laws that were once held aloft as being the gold standard for putting the environment at the heart of development are now under threat.
To many, the Resource Management Act (RMA) – the very fabric of our clean, green nation - means different things to different people. For some it’s about building a deck or an extension; to others it’s about protecting our local rivers and our culture. Either way, it is the safeguard that ensures that we are good custodians and tenants of our land and rivers.
That’s not to say it’s perfect, but by and large it works, and it works well. Of all the applications for developments that go in, less than one percent get turned down.
Yet, Steven Joyce and John Key are planning a radical overhaul that would strip out the core principles of the RMA – the very principles that actually protect our environment and allow you to have a say in what happens in your backyard. And it is these changes that are unacceptable.
They're pretending that it's about ‘removing red tape’. It's not. It's about removing your rights as a New Zealander to have a say when big business wants to wreck our countryside, drill for oil in our oceans or pollute the rivers and streams in which you swim. They want to wind back the clock on progressive law making.
As we’ve seen with the gutting of our policies to reduce pollution; the weak regulations that allow dangerous deep-water drilling; and agreements that will make it easier for overseas companies to sue the taxpayer for introducing better protection for our land, this is yet another blow to our values.
New Zealanders take pride in our identity and this is reflected in the way we cherish our greatest natural treasures. Yet this current Government seems hell-bent on writing laws to suit big business over the interests of ordinary Kiwis.
There comes a point when we have to stand up and say enough is enough: that there is a line in the sand which should not be crossed.
That time is now.
Now, more than ever in the two decades since the RMA came in to force, we need to ensure that our economic growth is built on good laws that protect the environment.
Indeed, our economy will thrive by doing business in a cleaner, smarter way. And laws like the RMA can help this development.
Good economic planning and growth must be able to work together with good, environmental laws - our future prosperity depends on it.