The Resource Management (Restricted Duration of Certain Discharge and Coastal Permits) Amendment Bill ("Bill") aims to amend s 107 of the Resource Management Act 1991 ("RMA"), relating to the granting of discharge and coastal permits.
Section 107(1) of the RMA provides that a consent authority shall not grant a discharge permit where that discharge, after reasonable mixing, is likely to give rise to conspicuous oil, grease, scum, foam, suspended material, change in colour or clarity, objectionable odour, renders fresh water unsuitable for human consumption, or has a significant adverse effect on aquatic life. An exception to this is provided in subsection (2)(a), which allows for discharges to water where justified by "exceptional circumstances". Under current law, "exceptional circumstances" has not been defined or limited and consents may therefore be issued for a period of up to 35 years in accordance with s 123 of the RMA. As a result there is concern both that normal or regular discharges have been included within the "exceptional circumstances" umbrella and that consents have been granted for long term pollution of waterways. The Bill seeks to limit the period for which a consent can be issued in "exceptional circumstances" to a maximum of 5 years.
The Bill, put forward by Green party member Catherine Delahunty, has passed its first reading with support from all parties except ACT and National. It has now been referred to select committee and is open for submissions until 29 November 2012.