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group, chaired by retired Court of Appeal Judge Tony Randerson QC, recommends the 29-year-old piece of legislation be repealed and replaced by two new laws.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