Botched Mangroves Bill designed to bypass legal safeguards

Forest & Bird is releasing emails which show the Mangroves Management Bill is intended to completely override the safeguards of the Resource Management Act (RMA).

Thames-Coromandel District Council and Hauraki District Council are seeking to be able to remove mangroves without oversight, via the Mangroves Management Bill currently before Parliament. Mangrove removal is currently managed by regional councils.

Emails released to Forest & Bird under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act show the lawyer engaged to draft the Bill, intended for it to be “the be-all and end-all of mangrove management,” and to “implicitly override the RMA.”

“This is incredibly worrying. The Resource Management Act exists for a reason – to manage human activities in a way that protects the environment, including our coastal environment. To allow two small councils to bypass the RMA and carry out their own mangrove removal with no independent oversight is very risky,” says Forest & Bird’s Central North Island Regional Manager Dr Rebecca Stirnemann.

“Research shows mangroves protect coastal communities and property by providing a buffer against sea-level rise, coastal erosion and storm surges – so important in the face of climate change and more frequent storms.”

“These two small councils lack the technical resources and expertise to assess the ecological and economic impacts of mangrove clearance, and the increased risk of natural hazards.”

In response to a Forest & Bird request to Thames-Coromandel District Council (TCDC) asking for copies of ecological assessments and cost-benefit analyses they had prepared as part of the Bill’s development, the TCDC said none of this work had been carried out.

Dr Stirnemann says the RMA is not the only law the Bill is designed to circumvent. Clause 8 (2) of the Bill says ‘A council is not required to comply with any other enactment that would otherwise regulate or apply to its mangrove management activities,’ unless the other Act explicity says it overrides the Mangroves Management Act

“Does this mean mangrove clearance carried out in these districts would be exempt from the Crimes Act, the Health and Safety at Work Act, the Wildlife Act, the Employment Relations Act, the Foreshore and Seabed Act, the Privacy Act, the Official Information Act, and so on?”

“If so, we’re talking about a ‘wild west’ situation,” says Dr Stirnemann.

“This is an extreme law change that would ride roughshod over proper process, and create all sorts of unforeseen circumstances for local communities.”

“This botched Bill should go no further.”

Submissions on the Bill close midnight Friday 23 February.

The emails from Thames Coromandel District Council can be viewed here.