Published: 2 August 2005
Environment Minister Marian Hobbs said on Monday “the Government is planning a range of national policy statements on electricity & telecommunications infrastructure, as well as new national standards for environmental health.”
6 weeks from an election and with no certainty as to who will form the next government, she might have been better to say Labour is proposing these things. But in fact the proposals are under way â€“ major policy positions being put in place over the election period (though started earlier) which, you might have thought, is a bad time for civil servants to be putting party-directed policy in place.
Ms Hobbs said the Ministry for the Environment was developing the range of national policy statements & environmental standards in collaboration with other government departments, stakeholders & local government to ensure greater consistency of decision making throughout the country under the Resource Management Act. The proposed package of standards follows the introduction of 14 standards for air quality & toxic materials last year, the first in 13 years under the act.
“National policy statements & national standards are provided for under the RMA, but these powers haven’t been used until relatively recently. The review of the act has highlighted the need for the Government to look at a range of topics and provide help to councils making difficult decisions on projects that affect the whole country.
“National policy on contentious topics such as electricity generation should help to set a standard for construction & operation. Central government will work with local government to make workable standards,” Ms Hobbs said.
She said the range of topics to be looked at over the coming year could include electricity generation, electricity transmission, telecommunication facilities, land transport noise and the protection of rare & depleted indigenous vegetation. “The Government’s sustainable water programme of action could also lead to other standards being considered. One of the issues to be considered is whether to use policy statements or environmental standards, or even both for some of these topics.
“We will be releasing drafts progressively for discussion this year & next year, and the public will have the opportunity to have their say before we decide if they will become law.
“Land contamination is one standard being considered. While no one argues that we shouldn’t repair contaminated land, we need a national approach on what exactly ‘uncontaminated’ means. Work is also well under way to develop a standard that will give councils the ability to ensure that water entering a public water treatment plant from a catchment area is safe enough to be treated by that plant.
“The ministry has been working with local government, the Ministry of Health & technical experts to develop a proposed human drinking water source standard and will soon be going out to the wider public for their views.”
The Ministry for the Environment is also working with water & waste experts to develop a standard for biosolids, such as treated sewage sludge used as soil conditioners.
National environmental standards & policy statements are included in the ministry’s national Talk Environment Roadshow, scheduled for October.