RMA confusion holding back flood recovery

As farmers across Canterbury begin the monumental task of cleaning up the shingle, mud, silt, rock and debris left by flooded rivers, more and more questions are being asked of Environment Canterbury and the application of RMA rules, Selwyn MP Nicola Grigg says.

“For years, farmers across the district have been frustrated by an overly zealous regime that hasn’t allowed them to do mitigation work that would have kept rivers clear and prevented much of the huge damage from occurring.

“Many now want to get on with the job of diverting rivers that have breached banks and are now running through their farms back into their usual flow beds but their efforts are being frustrated by the regulatory requirements.

“The way Environment Canterbury (ECan) is applying the RMA is confusing and open to interpretation.

“While it is possible to shore up broken riverbanks without a resource consent, many farmers are concerned they’ll face fines if they do so. The current nonsense rules stipulating rivers should be able to ‘express their natural flow patterns’ means nobody is sure if any remedial action to push them back into their beds will mean they’re breaching the law.

“Another confusion is that rivers are now full of shingle that needs to be dug out to prevent future floods – but farmers are worried if they do this they’ll be fined for ‘causing environmental harm’ according to a compliance officer’s interpretation.

“For some farms on areas of the Selwyn and Hororata rivers, ECan has not been carrying out mitigation work for some years – these farms have suffered huge damage but are being told by ECan they have to pay for it themselves as the landowners haven’t been charged rates for this. That this has been allowed to continue for so long is unbelievable.

“Farmers and other landowners just want certainty. This is exactly the kind of problem that the existing RMA has been unable to resolve and why sensible, quick and consistent RMA reform of the sort National wants to see is needed so badly.”