RMA reform vs recreation

Action | Background | Resources

The National Goverment has released a discussion paper "Improving our resource management system" (PDF, 4.4MB). The document aims to improve the resource management system by increasing predictability and removing cost. While many of the changes are of a technical nature, the sum total of changes seriously disadvantage recreational stakeholders.

In particular, the RMA reforms propose to delete the requirement to have particular regard to "7(c) the maintenance and enhancement of amenity values" (p37). Amenity values are currently defined in the RMA as "those natural or physical qualities and characteristics of an area that contribute to people's appreciation of its pleasantness, aesthetic coherence, and cultural and recreational attributes" 2(1).

The clause would be replaced by others requiring regard for "renewable energy" and "the efficient provision of infrastructure" (i.e. irrigation) (p37).

This will mean that considerations of the recreational values of a river or landscape will be given less weight when considering whether or not a development should proceed.

The Government has also released a Freshwater reform document (PDF, 5MB) that potentially weakens Water Conservation Orders (WCOs) by allowing the Minister to place them on hold or refer them to a regional council for incorporation into a regional plan.


Because the current Resource Management Act explicitly recognises recreational amenity values, Whitewater NZ has successfully achieved mitigation of adverse effects arising from hydro dam developments. This is the basis for the release regimes on the Pukaki, Tekapo, Mangahao, Tongariro, Waikaretaheke, Wairoa rivers and others. The recently opened and highly popular Hawea Whitewater Park is the outcome of successful mitigation arising from Contact Energy's resource consents for the Hawea scheme.