Proposed RMA reforms are of serious concern to kayakers and any other person that relaxes and recreates in the outdoors. The government's proposed reforms for the Resource Management Act and freshwater management pose a real threat to water-based recreation, says Whitewater New Zealand President Matthew Bennett. They put at risk New Zealanders' values and quality of life.
The discussion document "Improving our resource management system" proposes to remove clauses protecting recreational amenity and add new requirements to provide for "renewable energy" and "provision of infrastructure."
As RMA expert Maree Baker-Galloway explains, "amenity values are currently defined... 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". The discussion document proposes deletion of this requirement and nothing to replace it. This will mean that considerations of the recreational values of an area, whether it is a remote area or a popular area, will likely be given less weight when considering whether or not a development should proceed."
Based on the current Act's recognition of recreational amenity, Whitewater NZ has successfully achieved mitigation of adverse effects arising from hydro dam developments. This is the basis for the recreational 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 Clyde Dam hydroelectric scheme.
"All in all the proposed changes to the RMA alter and potentially downgrade protection for natural areas that are valued for their natural character, landscape amenity or recreational attributes," says Ms Baker-Galloway. Given that these features are the foundations of our tourism and outdoor recreation and education industries their recognition and protection is very important.
If New Zealand is to be "a place where talent wants to live," then strong protection of recreational amenity needs to be retained in our environmental systems.
About Whitewater NZ
Whitewater NZ works to protect and conserve rivers, improve opportunities for kayakers to enjoy our whitewater resources safely, and protect public access to rivers for recreational use. We are the primary advocate for the preservation and protection of whitewater resources throughout New Zealand. More information on: rivers.org.nz.
Whitewater NZ Contacts
+64 (21) 819 886