Panel suggests RMA be scrapped and replaced by two new pieces of legislation, which both address planning and environmental issues

Panel suggests RMA be scrapped and replaced by two new pieces of legislation, which both address planning and environmental issues

A government-appointed working group has delivered a 531-page report on how to simplify the Resource Management Act (RMA).

The group, chaired by retired Court of Appeal Judge Tony Randerson QC, recommends the 29-year-old piece of legislation be repealed and replaced by two new laws.

National Party Leader Judith Collins is claiming "victory", saying the group has come up with "almost exactly what National has been saying for three years".

But rather than have one law address the environment and the other urban planning and development, as National suggests, the panel maintains the laws should each cover both areas.

It proposes a Natural and Built Environments Act (NBEA) be introduced to focus on “enhancing the quality of the environment, housing and achieving positive outcomes to support the wellbeing of present and future generations”. It wants this to take a substantially different approach to that of the RMA.

Then, the panel wants a new Strategic Planning Act to “embed integrated spatial planning across all regions of New Zealand”.

This would see the 100-plus policy statements and plans put up by local authorities to be consolidated into 14 plans. These would be prepared by representatives of regional councils, territorial authorities, and mana whenua.

This Act would set long-term strategic goals and help integrate legislative functions across the resource management system including the proposed NBEA, the Local Government Act, the Land Transport Management Act and the Climate Change Response Act.

"This will allow a broad range of matters to be reconciled to ensure better future planning, including for infrastructure and housing,” Environment Minister David Parker said.

The changes would make it easier for people to deal with minor boundary disputes. 

They would also enable projects of national significance to get off the ground more quickly. 

The panel recommends a third, new law be introduced to address issues related to climate change adaptation and managed retreat from areas threatened with inundation.

When the Government got the ball rolling on this RMA review in July 2019, it recognised there wouldn’t be enough time to draft legislation before the election.

The prospect of getting consensus between the governing parties was always likely to be difficult, with parties putting their stakes in the ground over which interests they wanted to be given priority under the law.

Now Parker expects political parties to develop the policies they’ll take to the election, less than two months away, using the report’s findings.

The new legislation would take a few years to draft. 

The Government has already made some changes to the resource management system to address issues that couldn’t wait for the comprehensive review.

Here is a press release from Parker:

The Government has welcomed the most comprehensive review of New Zealand’s resource management system since the Resource Management Act (RMA) was passed in 1991.

The report, New Directions for Resource Management in New Zealand, was commissioned by Environment Minister David Parker and prepared by an independent review panel led by retired Court of Appeal Judge Tony Randerson QC after extensive consultation.

The panel received a range of submissions, engaged widely and was supported by reference groups within natural and rural, built and urban, and te ao Māori, as well as a range of working groups from within central government.

Among its recommendations is the replacement of the existing RMA by two separate pieces of legislation; a Natural and Built Environments Act and a Strategic Planning Act.

Minister for the Environment, David Parker said a review of the resource management system was long overdue.

“The RMA has doubled in size from its original length. It has become too costly, takes too long, and has not adequately protected the environment,” he said.

“There are significant pressures on both the natural and built environments that need to be addressed urgently. Urban areas are struggling to keep pace with population growth and the need for affordable housing. Water quality is deteriorating, biodiversity is diminishing and there is an urgent need to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to climate change.

“The Panel has designed tomorrow’s resource management system to deliver better outcomes for the environment, people and the economy,” he said.

The Government had already made changes to the resource management system in the current three year term to address issues that could not wait for the comprehensive review, released today.

“It is for the next Government to consider the report, and decide which aspects to adopt and decide whether to implement it in whole or in part.”

However, David Parker said he expected political parties would develop their policies for the upcoming general election campaign in light of the report’s findings.

The review panel said the proposed new Natural and Built Environments Act (NBEA), taking a substantially different approach from the RMA, would focus on enhancing the quality of the environment, housing and achieving positive outcomes to support the wellbeing of present and future generations. 

The proposed Strategic Planning Act would embed integrated spatial planning across all regions of New Zealand. It would set long term strategic goals and help integrate legislative functions across the resource management system including the proposed NBEA, the Local Government Act, the Land Transport Management Act and the Climate Change Response Act. This will allow a broad range of matters to be reconciled to ensure better future planning, including for infrastructure and housing.  

It recommends greater use of national direction by the Environment Minister and a more streamlined process for council plan-making and a more efficient resource consent process.

It also proposes a new separate law to address issues related to climate change adaptation and the managed retreat from areas threatened with inundation.

The Panel’s view was that any future resource management system should give effect to the principles of Te Tiriti and provide a clearer role for Māori in decision-making. 

The critical sections of the proposed new Act have been drafted by the panel and are included in the report.

Here is a press release from National Party Leader Judith Collins:

National Leader Judith Collins is claiming victory after Labour’s Resource Management Act (RMA) Working Group has finally recommended this morning to scrap the RMA and replacing it with a Natural and Built Environments Act and a Strategic Planning Act.

“The Working Group has come up with almost exactly what National has been saying for three years,” Ms Collins said.

“Labour has wasted three long years with RMA working groups when it could have done what National has been saying in the first place.

“The three wasted years means New Zealand is in much worse shape to invest and grow our way out of the economic and jobs crisis than we should have been.

“Labour’s dithering will cost tens of thousands of jobs over the months ahead that could have been saved had Phil Twyford, Shane Jones and the rest of them just got on with it three years ago. National’s BusinessStart and JobsStart are absolutely essential to fill that gap.

“Investors, developers, workers and voters can’t trust Labour and the Greens to deliver on repealing the job-killing RMA.

“National will introduce legislation to Parliament within our first year giving effect to today’s recommendations. We will pass it all before the end of our first term. The RMA is gone under National.”

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39 Comments

Before the change, a project needs to pass one law.

After the change, a project needs to pass three laws?

Is it understood right?

What matters is the complexity of the laws, not the number.

Perhaps, like Dickens, the legislators are Paid by the Word?

No doubt somewhere in the 531 pages it has some view on resource consents and local government finance??
Would not know it from Parker and Collins comments

Getting the ball rolling on this in 2019 was the problem. The government was formed in 2017. They supposedly had all sorts of urban planning reforms to enact (e.g. urban boundary changes etc). As with most pre-election promises, they were allowed to slip under the radar.

Literally years of lost progress. Now we have to have another election, another parliament needs to be formed, reform needs to be consulted on and we could very well be into the next election cycle after this one without any actual change happening.

Yep but you only need one day to pass the wrong law and then rush policy to give JA supreme power aka China model

National never made any progress on it either, despite repeatedly saying they wanted to change the RMA while in government.

Yes. And they were pilloried for not making badly need planning reforms by Labour who had all these campaign-friendly slogans about land prices and boundaries that definitely said they would *do* things. And here we are. How much as been *done*? This process, from a party who screamed about neglect and used a lack of action as a policy platform, took more than a year past their inauguration to even get started.

Be kind. Pretty words and promises are what matters, not actually delivering on said promises. That is the lesson of 2017-2020 which sees the least competent govt in NZ history sitting at 50-60% in polls. It's clear that politicians from now on need to focus on their core business of getting their propaganda into the ears of low-information voters, and can ignore everything else if they do that well.

"It's clear that politicians from now on need to focus on their core business of getting their propaganda into the ears of low-information voters, and can ignore everything else if they do that well." The story of National's John Key years!

At least it kept Leighton Hosking well employed!

Two real Kiwi's right on

If I recall the Maori Party and Future last whatever (Dunne) blocked any RMA change that the Nats wanted. Now here we have Labour crowing about how it needs to be changed. Perhaps they have hidden increased environmental issues somewhere in the 500 odd pages and in fact it won't be any slicker than the current RMA, perhaps even more stringent. I'm not sure I'd want to read the 500 or so pages and executive summaries can be skewed in a specific direction.

531 pages of what exactly? Places to bury the issues and frame the debate as wanted by whoever commissioned the report? 3 new laws???

The RMA is the rort that just keeps on giving. $$$$ for lawyers and consultants now and forever more. $$$$ for politicians and bureaucrats to spend time reading, reporting, debating and generally buggering about indefinitely. $$$$ for council staff to interpret, advice and delay any and all new projects.

Removing barriers to change would seem a good idea. What about just repealing the RMA and not replacing it at all. Simples.

I find it funny that people often want to do what they want on their own property, but also want to control what happens on their neighbours. RMA plans try to strike a balance with this. Having no regulation would lead to all sorts of poor outcomes. I very much doubt that a suburbanite would want a factory built on one side of their property and then a 10 story apartment on the other.

Surely we can find a way to resolve such issues in a fair and simple way without creating a vast dysfunctional toll booth economy out of it? Half a dozen regulations should be able to sort out 99% of the real issues. Government does not to be involved except to define the rules.

Reductio ad absurdum Mikey. I think having several basic zones 1) Industrial/commercial 2) mixed use of retail/commercial/high density residential 3) residential then allowing the free market to run in course would see improved outcomes for most of society. Sure you will have the odd winger but that is life. The draconian level of restrictions imposed on property via local govt & the RMA has caused market failure & sky rocketing property prices. This has real world consequences as the average person/couple in there late 20's can no longer afford to both by a home & start a family. This absurdity needs to come to an end.

A great thought, but it’s called the Rich Mans Act for a reason, the party with the deepest pockets to pay the consultants usually gets their own way!

'I very much doubt that a suburbanite would want a factory built on one side of their property and then a 10 story apartment on the other.'

Do you mean like The Concrete factory across the road from Westlake Girls or the new Subdivisions that built around the Rosedale poo ponds?

The reality is the market will build in the margin for any issue the clients want and can afford if given the chance.

The RMA builds in the poorest outcomes which is high priced unaffordable poor quality homes.

And yet that sort of outcome we have been getting with the RMA and all its costs and controls!

"The new legislation would take a few years to draft".

I never cease to marvel at those who think this system has 'a few more years' to run. If you have the right kind of eyes (HT Hunter Thompson)) you can't fail to see it disintegrating. We certainly need new legislation, but aimed at Degrowth.

Now there's a word.

Having specific laws for dealing with climate change management is surely a step in the right direction.

If you mean strategic adaption, yes.

But if they're using fossil fuels to do the work..........

:)

As a planner, I'm really happy with where this has landed. Judith can claim all the victory she wants. Realistically we'll end up with something similar, but hopefully a bit better integrated and faster to work in. There will always be a need to regulate private development to minimise impacts on the public. Replacing the RMA won't create a free for all. In fact, it may frustrate development even more, given the decades of case law governing planning won't be there to provide guidance.

"100-plus policy statements and plans put up by local authorities to be consolidated into 14 plans".

Why as many as 14? That would still leave considerable scope for the existing plethora of Consultants, Plan Navigators, Lawyers, Advisers, Certified Intermediaries, TLA Planners, Plan PR and Communication staff, plenty of scope to devise tickets to clip, at Modest Fees each clip, mais bien sûr, for the hapless end consumer to compulsorily contribute to.

Planners will be rubbing their hands, again. some will even resign from councils and set up as consultants.

Is there even such a thing as planners in the private sector? Isn’t it just consultants being paid by their customer to try and get their own way. The customer has the plan, the ‘planner’ is just the code consultant to try and get it over the line.

We all know this will end up a paper cluster%*&#.

"When the Government got the ball rolling on this RMA review in July 2019, it recognised there wouldn’t be enough time to draft legislation before the election.
The new legislation would take a few years to draft."

One thing about being self employed you realise your success relies on taking action. You make decisions and very quickly form a plan and make progress.

Thanks goodness auckland was amalgamated to the supercity and then the unitary plan implemented with its changes to zoning rules and upscaling of developments. This strung-out RMA process seems like a total waste of time and money. The population pressures are forcing district and city councils to think harder about their role as a provider to get active with their district plans.

Auckland is unsustainable, period. Doesn't matter what management structure is in place.

Try asking what the maintainable population is long-term?

What's your criteria for deciding it is. Auckland is small comparing other world cities. But this is about the RMA and effects of development, I know you disagree with any development, in principle. There is already a lack of housing and choice and the cost of development is through the roof. Many people say houses are not affordable, then they stupidly oppose new homes which forces developers to spend big money to get approval. Or they give up. Both actions by developers increases the cost of housing to homebuyers. Genius.

Yes, in the context of our national economy based largely on primary production plus, more arguably, tourism, Auckland, yes as a very small city by worlds standards, but our biggest urban centre, is a predominantly import consuming entity clearly parasitic on the wider, mainly rural economy. Our recent approach to build the national economy via high levels of immigration of mainly, urban dwellers wanting to live in Auckland, has been, to be polite, a disaster.....and yes, unsustainable.

Houseworks - it is rose tinted glasses to think developers are just honest people trying to build houses - yawn!

In most cases resource consent can be avoided, yet developers cant seem to build within the height limit, HIRB, yards etc. Its always more more more. And then grumbling about a process they chose to go down via greed. Lets have some honesty and accountability for the private sector for once.

So, will everything be finalised and be in place by 2030 ?

In a word... no. Yet by 2050 nz population is expected to be at 50 percent more than now. That's 30 years away which seems like a lifetime yet we are already 20 years into the century and that time went like a flash.

I looked for the words, warm, dry, healthy, affordable housing, in the report, but didn't see any reference.

Do they not realize that land is the first input cost for building a house and that restrictive monopolistic zoning policies and the bureaucratic cost of getting land to the market do not leave enough money in the hand to build houses the at energy-efficient, warm, dry, healthy and affordable. Let alone save for retirement, pay for this month's power bill, family health, and education costs etc.

People that are under the pump for their daily living costs, don't have time or give a rats arse, about 90% of the words in that report.

If you made housing energy-efficient, warm, dry, healthy and affordable, then almost by default you would achieve the outcomes that the report is trying to achieve, and without the need for all their recommendations as people would have the time, money and health to fully participate by choice in achieving the stated goals.

The RMA has without doubt been the most expensive piece of legislation in NZ's history.Drafted in the dying days of the Labour government, picked up by the incoming Nats...supposedly tidying up the much amended Town & Country Act, & touted as being "permissive, faster, cheaper, blah, blah". It was to allow flexibility subject to good environmental outcomes.
The result, an orgy of plans by every tinpot council seeking to retain or expand control of every aspect of land use,...oodles of strategies/focus groups/ consultations, etc., and with ultimate recourse to the courts to establish just what Parliament actually intended.....huge costs...in the billions,...just to get the Act up amd running. For example, local councils spent millions fighting regional councils just to establish where river mouths were sited to determine which authority controlled what.
And now it is proposed to dump this billion dollar "investment"...in favour of what? Does anyone think councils will streamline their bloated staff, or cede control and revenue? Pigs might fly!
The RMA is clearly a disaster, but we seem no nearer to getting something better. Are there no foreign experiences in land use legislation that we can learn from? Or will it be a case of little old kiwi battlers leading the world in expanding our population, increasing commercial activity, and yet saving the purple, two spotted snail that is seemingly lurking until discovered in time to stop every proposed new road/mine/subdivision? ...not to mention catering for our newly emergent Treaty industry?
Hopefully, the election will soon be over and we kiwis can get back to doing what we do best...cheap developments trying to get under local councils's radar and avoid their greedy fees.

The RMAs philosophy, like all neoliberal thinking, was a simplistic joke. Like cities just plan themselves, and developers all doing whatever they liked was somehow all going to work out fine. 40 years later with the most expensive housing in the world and some of the most ugly development allowed - you have your answer.

As for the Panels report, you are not wrong about the treaty industry. Every chapter ending with a note on Maori, how they need to be involved, all paid for by the taxpayer of course.

With due respect Makara, I can't see anything "neoliberal" about the RMA, nor lack of planning controls. It was a rush job introduced by the dying days of the Palmer lead Labour Government but pushed through by the incoming National Government in 1991. It was intended to replace the much amended old Town & Country Planning Act, and was toted as being "permissive" rather than the old fashioned "restrictive" legislation. It was not drafted by the usual parliamentary process and specifically avoided and cost benefit investigation by Treasury. It's authors were long on flowery and undefined phrases promising a new utopia of land use....a gift for lawyers and our courts.
As it turned out (& probably to the horror of the original authors) the failure to deal with the substance and detail was a gap eagerly filled by planners/lawyers/technical experts not to mention the local government bureaucracies in whom the Act vested huge discretionary authority.
In my opinion, this latter point is the central issue. Despite a larger Parliament filled by dozens of would be career politicians, much of our modern legislation follows a similar pattern, ie, long on wonderful intention, but with all the technical detail delegated to the departmental civil service. In the RMA case the desire to a"allow for social, economic well being whilst achieving a sustainable environment, blah, blah", translates into an horrendously complicated and expensive process when Joe citizen wants to add a metre to his carport!
We should learn something from this billion dollar stuffup! If Parliament finds it too hard to define the nuts and bolts of what it is that NZers are forbidden to do,...they probably should not be trying to write law in the first place. And allowing discretion to be exercised by any official who is not paid or encouraged to be adventurous is a recipe for a bloated civil service who only know the word "no". (Or perhaps the words...'pay us this blank check fee, and we might say yes')
Perhaps an example of a Kiwi weakness to think we can "lead the world" & our failure to appreciate that we are 2 tiny pimples and tge bottom end of the world. Sometimes it might just be better to be a follower to avoid other's bad experiences!

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