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Government tasks working group with considering whether Resource Management Act should be broken up to separately deal with land use planning and environmental protection

Government tasks working group with considering whether Resource Management Act should be broken up to separately deal with land use planning and environmental protection

The Government is committing to forming a working group to investigate how the Resource Management Act (RMA) 1991 should be improved.

It has released a draft terms of reference for the review and announced that the group will be chaired by retired Appeal Court Judge Tony Randerson.

The proposal is for the group to take a thorough look at the legislation, and as a part of this, consider "whether or not to provide separate statutory provision for land use planning and environmental protection".

Environment Minister David Parker didn't have a strong view on whether this separation was necessary, but admitted there was a risk this could complicate the system. 

Cabinet will now appoint members to the group and confirm the scope of the review. Randerson hoped it would be "close-knit" with only four members in addition to himself.

The group will be required to report back to the Government by mid-2020.

Parker acknowledged there wouldn't be time to draft, let along pass legislation before the 2020 election. 

He said in a paper presented to Cabinet that he expected the group’s final report to “contain proposals for significant parts of a new Act or Acts”.

“This includes the purpose and principles, national direction, plan making, consenting, CME [compliance, monitoring and enforcement], and the roles of central and local government, the Environment Court, and Māori…

“Not proceeding with a comprehensive review would risk ongoing and widespread criticism that the resource management system is not fit for purpose.”

Parker said in a statement that close to 30 years after it was passed, the country’s main law managing built and natural environments was not working as well as intended.

“Our aim is to produce a revamped law fit for purpose in the 21st century that will cut complexity and cost while better protecting our environment,” he said.

“While not the sole cause of the housing crisis, planning rules are partly to blame. Environmental outcomes have been disappointing. Freshwater quality has been going backwards.

“Amendments to the RMA since 1991 have added complexity.

“It’s close to twice its original length, making the RMA more and more unwieldy to interpret, and hampering its effective implementation.

“There had also been too little spatial planning in and around growing urban areas.”

The review announced on Wednesday marks “Stage 2” of the Coalition Government’s revamp of the RMA.

Under “Stage 1”, announced in November, Parker committed to reversing some of the “objectional” changes made to the RMA in 2017 under the previous government. He said he would repeal:

- Measures that prevent public notification and appeals by applicants and submitters in residential and subdivision consent applications;

- Powers given to the Environment Minister to override local councils; and

- Measures that prevent groups of consents to be updated in line with new standards.

Parker in November expected a Bill would be introduced to Parliament in early 2019, however the Bill is still being drafted.

He said a “thorough overhaul” of the law was needed, not “further ad hoc patch-ups”.

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Reporting mid-2020? Sounds like it's going to be drawing up election policy for Labour for the next election. Why was this not addressed in the past one and a half years? Any question about what they haven't achieved in terms of Kiwibuild or affordable housing can now be deflected with "But we're reforming the RMA!" - with no actual requirement to commit to anything.

It's kind of ingenious when you think about it.

Haaaaa . .. it's taken the pollies 30 years to wake up to the fact that there's problems with the RMA ...

.. something we all woke up to after 30 minutes of the RMA being imposed upon us ...


Will be interesting to see if they actually acheive anything. The RMA is on the outside apparently an environmental protection mechanism but its really a neoliberal trojan horse that makes property development and resource extraction the sole domain of those with the money to grease the right wheels and gears. It doesn't protect anything in the face of enough money it just stops everyday kiwis developing property and getting wealthy alongside the rich end of town. Can't have that sort of encroachment on our game by peasants now can we?! Not suprisingly it was an act brought into being by Simon Upton, National Party M.P.
That should underline its true intent rather clearly.


Include how the immigration rate impacts land use and the environment? Including temporary immigration as tourist or worker or student. Isn't this Holy Cow the key reason this area is under such pressure?

There had also been too little spatial planning in and around growing urban areas.

Oh, cripes, the RMA does not even mention 'spatial planning' - it is couched in, and intended to be driven by, Effects on the environment (however That's defined).

But what has in fact happened, is that the old Town and Country Planning Actors, wedded as they were to zonerating, 'land-use-planning' by spatial area, and by no small coincidence the Effects on their own status and livelihoods, promptly interpreted the RMA as being the T&CP Act Redux, and built their usual morass of Rules, Zones, Guidelines and Discretions, into a plethora of District Plans.

The result is what one would expect:

  • Internal contradictions galore in most Plans
  • Able to be sorted (kinda, sorta) by liberal applications of Consultants, Time, Munny and Mo' Planning Staff
  • Until the next time the identical circumstance is encountered, at which point the whole sorry saga is re-run, but with Mo' Time and Munny needed (inflation...)
  • Plans inconsistent across TLA boundaries: hop across a squiggle on a Planning Map and more doors open. Maybe.
  • Total ignorance of the fact that Time = Munny, so processes can drag on for years - with no penalty to the TLA (except bigger Modest Fees payable in next years' round)
  • The whole schemozzle paid for (of course) by the ultimate consumer in terms of section, house and commercial building costs.
  • Oh, and by the ratepayer, who supports the empire-builders, plans and fads-du-jours dreamt up by Planners, via the Compulsorily Collected Rates Bill.

And Parker is serious about wanting Yet More of this?

Yes because the law needs to be "fit for purpose in the 21st century".
I don't know how many times I've seen these words used to justify laws and projects. Saying this is designed to put opponents on the back foot. It is very aggressive.

We need a lot more planned approach across the whole country where we aim to actually plan what will occur and why rather than just have one bunch of rules that applies to the whole country, but in reality was designed with the larger cities in mind.
Places like Queenstown and Wanaka desperately need protection against over development if we want to retain their uniqueness long term. The current rules offer no protection as the powers to decide what will happen always get decided in the environment court, outside of the local councils control where money and resources pretty much rule.
Many of New Zealand's uniquely beautiful places will start to be ravaged like what is happening in Queenstown if don't allow these places to have adequate protection. Maybe certain strategically beautiful places need a designation somewhere in between a national park and a urban area.
Whatever the working group decides, preservation of these place MUST be top of their agenda.

Environmentalist/preservationist/nimby = someone who built their beach house 10 years back, and is now implacably opposed to anyone else building one.

Foyle: It really saddens me to see we have people in NZ who cannot see the need to protect it's most special places long term.

And it saddens me that people cannot step outside of their own heads for long enough to see the world through other than their own selfish filters. The world is an unthinking unfeeling thing. Your asthetic preferences exist only within your head, and if your preferences serve primarily to benefit the desires of yourselves and a few other elitists while discounting the preferences, hopes and aspirations of a vastly greater number or less well off, then I think they are fundamentally wrong. Don't force others to pay for your lifestyle choices.

What a silly comment. You have pretty much said nothing is worth preserving or protecting. If you do think it is, then you are an elitist.

Really hope that Labour can engage with National in figuring out reforms with bipartisan support so that it can be passed regardless of 2020 election results. It's too big and too important to NZ's future to be pandering to fringe coalition parties.

"We need to create a system that better enables economic growth within environmental limits"

There is no such animal. It is us coming up against those limits, that is posing our problems. What we need is a redefinition of 'future needs' - and if we manage to define that, we'll notice a need for de-growth. I'm of the opinion that events will overtake the discussion.

Another talkfest... I thought this was the year of delivery.... or was that another 'wrong 'un' from Captain Jacinda?

.. so far , everything Taxcindas mob has actually done has seriously backfired on them .. . The delivery of 100 000 affordable homes for instance , or the planting of one billion trees . . A fat zero in the delivery front ...

So , they're hunkering down into their 2008-2017 mode , and having endless talkfests ...

GBH - I appreciate the generally lightweight nature of your posts, but try thinking a little. This was - and I repeat was - a growth-based, growth requiring system. It was built to fit the growth period, and indeed could have been no other way. But physical growth is over now, meaning the ability to repay debt in the future, is becoming increasingly compromised. So 'affordable' has become a glib, meaningless word. Nobody, of whatever political hue, can deliver 'affordable' within the increasingly drawing-down, increasingly less-optioned, increasingly Commons-owned epoch we have entered.

And try to get past the repetition of a denigrating label, eh? Labour ar a mile from sustainability, and sustainability is the only valid game in town. But our current PM would be far and away a better leader through the coming bottleneck, than anyone (including the current Green offerings0. Nobody in - or currently out - of the Nats, is anywhere near that, intellectually.

As you repeat ad nauseum , we have reached peak oil , peak growth , peak atoms ... yadda yadda ...

.. reading your misery ridden posts , clearly we have not reached peak doom & gloom ... very far from it ...

Break out the tinfoil hats , chaps .... the gloomsterisers are back !

Sorry, GBH. Peak Tinfoil occurred a few years back....

We ought to be nice to the poor deluded Malthusianistic Luddites ... really we ought ... heee heeeee .... next week , maybe ....

They now use Silicone hats.

Believe it or not , on this day in 1995 it was announced that the world had reached peak sperm count ...

.. I think that Mr PDKs problem is that hes been withholding , storing his up ever since that date ...

The things he's talking about here just blow my mind. So much commonsense in one announcement!

Allowing development to proceed whilst preserving the environment!!! Showing concern for fresh water!!!

Anyone who's tried to build knows what a nightmare it is. Councils have turned the RMA into a quagmire.

National did SFA about the RMA when in government and this hugely affected house affordability. They also allowed our rivers and lakes to be totally polluted.

Good on Labour for at least signalling they will do something!

"Good on Labour for at least signalling they will do something!" ahh, the damning judgement of low expectations. Signalling is all it is. All talk no action, as usual. They had 9 years in opposition to do their homework and figure out what to do, but did nothing. They have since sat on their hands for nearly 2 years before even starting to seriously investigate a problem that everyone and his dog has been screaming about for more than a decade. National at least tried to reform the RMA.

"National at least tried to reform the RMA."

Too little too late, and they waited until they had to rely on the Maori party for support. Do, there is no try.

They took one look at the RMA and realized it directly threatened their landed gentry patronage and shut up shop there and then. National couldn't even manage the Chch rebuild nor get pricing right for the Akl central rail loop. Remember how National were going to get our extractives sector going on turbocharge to get in on the action with Oz's resource sector? National ended up BANKRUPTING AND SELLING Solid Energy instead and some well known National Party backers did very nicely out of that, thank you very much.

Its more complex than just the RMA

1) Manage the immigration rate down to something sustainable that maximises gdp/capita growth, and takes the pressure on urban growth down to a manageable level

2) Amalgamate all regional and local government authorities into unitary authorities with the smallest being large enough to be financially viable

3) Sunset all existing rules under the RMA with a 10 year sunset, but keep the essence of the RMA (its world class legislation that has been butchered in its implmementation)

4) Sunset all existing land covenants with a 10 year sunset

5) Require the plans (water, regional, district(urban planning) etc) to exist only at the national level

6) Require the plans to be effects based only as was originally intended (no more zoning or density limitations except on an effects basis)

7) Central government to introduce National Policy Statements (backed by policy impact assessments) into the Plans as the initial framework

8) All other plan mechanisms to be at the national level and have to go through policy, rule, or regulatory impact assessment to be justified. Anyone can propose & submit on plan changes.

Great post. Contrasts well with some others.

I think we need a longer look at it - my suggestion is for the next 10 generations to have legal representation, each, at all RMA hearings. And that their utterances be given equal weight. Almost everything would fail, 10:1. That which got through, would be truly long-viewed. But looking upthread, society may never have the cranial largesse to establish such a construct.

Best post of the entire thread, KO. I'd simply include the immediate firing of all Planners who don't have a solid BE (and thus could - Could, maybe, perhaps - be useful in the infrastructure build-out we are gonna need), and the opening of Housing Factories for them to be re-trained in. A swap from the Non-Productive to the Productive sector......from each according to their abilities......

Centralisation of any power almost always results in a worse situation, with more layers of unelected, unanswerable bureaucrats jamming up the process worse efficiency, and naturally operating in a manner that works to grow their power and numbers. Devolution, and decision makers that can be removed by local constituencies if they perform badly or counter to community preferences is a better model. Auckland 'supercity' is a case in point

All your post proves is you have learnt NOTHING in 30 years. Neoliberalism and its "hands off" approach has created our massive housing shortage and under funding of infrastructure. And yet your prescription is more of the same!?

I was today years old when I learned the current RMA and land situation in Auckland is the result of a neoliberal 'hands off' approach.