The Resource Management (Restricted Duration of Certain Discharge and Coastal Permits) Amendment Bill is quietly making its way through Parliament.  Surprisingly, this Bill has not attracted any significant media attention.

As outlined in our last newsletter, this is a Member’s bill promoted by Green MP Catherine Delahunty’s to close what she perceives as "a loophole" in the RMA allowing "on-going pollution".

The purpose of this Bill is to amend section 107 of the RMA, relating to granting discharge permits and coastal permits.  Section 107 currently restricts the ability of consent authorities to grant a discharge permit or a coastal permit that would result in contaminants entering water if, after reasonable mixing, it would result in certain adverse effects.  However, section 107(2) allows such permits to be granted in certain circumstances, including where the consent authority is satisfied that "exceptional circumstances" justify the granting of the permit.  This Bill seeks to limit the period for which such consent can be issued in "exceptional circumstances" to a maximum of five years.

The change proposed by the Bill is likely to be of concern to various industries which discharge into waterways.  While there is little caselaw on the "exceptional circumstances" proviso, it has been relied on in a number of cases including the Tasman Pulp and Paper Mill, Wairakei and Poihipi Power Stations, and Gisborne District Council's wastewater outfall.  The provision has had limited consideration in the coastal environment but may receive greater attention with the hoped expansion of the aquaculture industry.

The Bill has now passed its first reading and has been referred to Select Committee.  Submissions close on 29 November 2012 and the Select Committee report is due on 28 February 2013.  A copy of the Bill, and information on how to make a submission, can be found here.