Let me ask this. Is the protection of New Zealand’s natural environment more important than its economic development? Or are they equally important?
I know, too easy.
So try this. Must they be given equal consideration under the law that governs almost everything New Zealand industry can do?
I had assumed so, too. The vast majority of us, I suspect, have supposed the Resource Management Act, for all its drawn-out procedures, allowed economic benefits to be weighed against environmental costs.
Not so. That became evident last year when the Government tried to write economic considerations into the act. An outcry erupted from non-government organisations. It came not just from the extremes of Greenpeace but from reasonable voices such as Gary Taylor’s Environmental Defence Society and the Fish and Game Council.
The “father” of the RMA, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, weighed in with a warning that to give equal standing to economic development would upset nearly 25 years of case law under the act.
By implication, and sometimes admission, they told us environmental arguments could not compete with economic gains if they were given equal consideration.
I’m not sure that’s true. There is a balance to everything. The problem is that the balance is currently way too far towards preservation at all costs. As with most things in life, positions on the extreme ends carry a high opportunity cost. Read more »