RMA reform hinted at

Simon Bridges.
Simon Bridges.
Changes to the Resource Management Act and mineral permitting system, and possibly a review of the relatively new Environmental Protection Authority, were mooted yesterday by Economic Development, Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges.

Mr Bridges was speaking to more than 250 delegates at the annual New Zealand branch of the Australian Institute of Mining & Metallurgy (AusIMM) conference in Hamilton.

''We have got to get the fundamentals right,'' he said of the government agency roles.

With 150 amendments already made to the RMA and on-time permit processing having increased from 69% to 97%, the Government wanted to continue to cut red tape, he said.

Data collation, to entice overseas companies to explore, was still a strong focus, with $4.5 million spent in the past three years and $8 million earmarked for further data collation.

He wanted further reforms to the RMA and improvements to the process of submissions, court appeals and resource consent applications, with added detail when appeals were lodged.

Mr Bridges made passing reference to West Coal coal mine developer Bathurst Resources, which spent two years in courts fighting multiple environmental organisation appeals, which held up its production start-up.

He had ''some empathy'' with companies such as Chatham Rock Phosphate; an EPA staff report on its application to mine the Chatham Rise seabed was released last week, carrying news that depressed its stock price and prompted a flurry of allegations and counter-claims between Chatham and the EPA.

Mr Bridges suggested there should be ''time limits and caps'' to application periods, of four to six months.

Mr Bridges was asked for his take on the EPA decision that stopped Trans Tasman Resources from getting its marine consent to mine seabed iron sands off Taranaki.

He noted the EPA was independent, under the mandate of the Minister for the Environment and ''ultimately designed to give confidence to New Zealanders ... for the highest of environmental standards''.

While some in the resource sector believed the decision ''highly disappointing or wrong'', he said if similar findings continued, a National-led government could review the EPA.

• Simon Hartley was hosted at the conference by AusIMM.

simon.hartley@odt.co.nz

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