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Resource Management Act replacement to put numerical limits on pollution levels, while focussing on ensuring houses and infrastructure are built

Resource Management Act replacement to put numerical limits on pollution levels, while focussing on ensuring houses and infrastructure are built

The Government has published the first draft for the first of three proposed new laws that will replace the Resource Management Act (RMA).

The “exposure draft”, released for consultation, outlines the key aspects of the Natural and Built Environments Bill, which will be the primary replacement for the RMA. 

The legislation will set environmental limits, all the while outlining desired environmental, cultural and building outcomes.  

This is different to the RMA, which mostly focuses on managing the effects of activities on the environment.

The draft suggests environmental limits could have numbers put on them. For example, stipulate what the maximum concentration of nitrogen in a lake can be, or define the maximum amount of nitrogen that can be discharged into a lake.

Limits could also be qualitative if it's difficult to quantify or measure a limit. 

These limits will be put in regional National Planning Framework plans.

The goal is to consolidate over 100 RMA policy statements and regional and district plans into about 14 plans.

The plans will also specify environmental, cultural and developmental “outcomes” that need to be achieved.

These will include the likes of well-functioning urban areas, infrastructure services including renewable energy, housing supply and affordability, protected customary rights, and development in rural areas enabling economic activity.

The Natural and Built Environments Bill also incorporates Te Tiriti o Waitangi and Te Ao Māori.

Decision-makers will be required to "give effect to" the principles of Te Tiriti, replacing the current RMA requirement to "take into account" those principles.

Environment Minister David Parker described the repeal and replacement of the RMA as a “once in a generation" undertaking.

“We are creating a system that will be less complex, take less time to administer and be less costly,” he said.

“While not the sole cause of the housing crisis, planning rules are partly to blame.

“Simplifying processes will also add to system efficiency.”

A long road ahead 

The Natural and Built Environments Act will sit alongside two other new pieces of legislation that need to be drafted - the Strategic Planning Act and the Climate Adaptation Act.

The former will help coordinate and integrate decisions made under relevant legislation, through requiring the development of long-term regional spatial strategies.

The latter will address complex issues (including compensation) around managed retreat from areas at risk of the effects of climate change.

The plan is for the Natural and Built Environments Bill and Strategic Planning Bill to be introduced to Parliament in early 2022 and be passed before this parliamentary term ends in 2023.

The Climate Adaptation Bill is expected to be introduced to Parliament in early 2023.

The Natural and Built Environments Bill will go through two select committee processes, rather than one, providing additional opportunity for public feedback and for tweaks to be made.

Here’s a snippet from a government explainer on the draft Natural and Built Environments Bill: 

30 As the primary replacement for the RMA, the NBA [Natural and Built Environments Act] will address the most significant weaknesses in the current RM system. Like the RMA, the NBA will be an integrated statute for environmental protection and land use. The NBA will work in tandem with the proposed Strategic Planning Act (SPA).

31 The Panel considered a split approach, with one statute governing environmental protection and outcomes, the other for planning, land use and development – but this was not favoured by the Panel. Although the RMA has not brought desired outcomes, an integrated approach is not the problem, and the case for integration remains strong.

Strengthening limits for the natural environment

32 A major criticism of the RMA is that it has not adequately protected the natural environment. One reason is that national and local RM policy and plans have not always set controls that are strong and comprehensive enough, such as environmental bottom lines.

33 The NBA will include a mandatory requirement for the Minister for the Environment to set environmental limits for aspects of the natural environment, to protect its ecological integrity and human health. These limits will be framed as a minimum acceptable state of an aspect of the environment, or a maximum amount of harm that can be caused to that state. Timing and transitional arrangements will be taken into account in setting limits.

Achieving positive outcomes

34 Another criticism of the RMA is that it focuses too much on managing adverse effects on the environment, and not enough on promoting positive outcomes across all aspects of well-being. The NBA will specify a range of outcomes that decision-makers will be required to promote for natural and built environments.

35 Outcomes specified in the exposure draft include environmental protection, iwi and hapū interests, cultural heritage, protection of customary rights, housing, rural development, infrastructure provision, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

36 Outcomes will also guide regional spatial strategies under the SPA, as described below.

Managing environmental effects

37 The NBA will carry over the RMA’s requirement to ‘avoid, remedy, or mitigate’ adverse effects of activities on the environment. This will ensure a management framework exists for all adverse effects, including those not covered by limits or outcomes.

38 The NBA will also ensure that measures to avoid, remedy or mitigate effects do not place unreasonable costs on development and resource use. Although the NBA will intentionally curtail subjective amenity values, this will not be at the expense of quality urban design, including appropriate urban tree cover.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi and te ao Māori in the system

39 The NBA intends to improve recognition of te ao Māori and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

40 To better recognise te ao Māori, Te Oranga o te Taiao will be included in the Act’s purpose. This concept is intended to encapsulate the intergenerational importance of the health and well-being of the natural environment. See paragraph 95 below for what Te Oranga o Te Taiao incorporates.

41 Decision-makers would be required to ‘give effect to’ the principles of Te Tiriti, replacing the current RMA requirement to ‘take into account’ those principles.

Providing clear national direction

42 Under the NBA, the new National Planning Framework (NPF) will provide strategic and regulatory direction from central government on implementing the new system. This will be much more comprehensive and integrated than the RMA required.

43 The NPF will play a critical strategic role, setting limits and outcomes for natural and built environments, and ways to enhance the well-being of present and future generations. Where possible, the NPF will resolve conflicts, or give direction on resolving conflicts across the system.

Consolidating plans

44 The exposure draft has adopted the Panel’s proposal to develop one NBA plan per region, prepared by a plan committee comprising representatives from local government (regional and territorial), central government (Minister of Conservation), and mana whenua. The Government is still considering the best approach to NBA plan preparation and decision-making, and feedback received from the select committee inquiry will provide valuable input into this.

45 The intention is to consolidate over 100 RMA policy statements and regional and district plans into about 14 plans, simplifying and improving integration of the system.

Improving provision of housing and infrastructure

46 It is important that the reformed RM system supports environments where people can choose to live close to employment, education, health and recreation, and the opportunities they provide. This will allow communities to develop in ways that support the prosperity and well-being of their people, enable social and cultural connections, and minimise environmental impact.

47 Through a more constructive and coherent influence on regional spatial strategies and NBA plans, the NPF will improve certainty for developers, local government, infrastructure providers and the community. It will provide strategic and regulatory direction and guidance (eg on infrastructure or zoning rules), increasing the consistency of plans.

48 Infrastructure is recognised in the purpose and related provisions of the exposure draft, as a mandatory topic in the NPF, and for consideration in NBA plans. The integration of decisions on land use planning with the delivery of infrastructure and its funding is a key reason for the SPA as described below. Policy work will continue while the select committee is conducting its inquiry.

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"The legislation will set environmental limits, all the while outlining desired environmental, cultural and building outcomes."

This is a strong signal for a buy now. Astute investors should consider these factors on top of location when investing. Ashley Church may be wrong about prices doubling every decade as the new limits will enable a new multiplicative effect that exceeds doubles.

It will be impossible to overpay for real estate moving forward, make up your mind soon- he who dares wins.

Be quick, opportunities like these are once in a lifetime!


I'm pretty sure we've already established that in your eyes, all news is a buy signal for real estate.

One of those trollish commenters that's better to ignore.

I'm guessing this'll play out like our building standards with double-glazed aluminium joinery heatsinks.

I hope you're wrong. But I have to admit that my first instinct was: "what will replace the RMA? something worse."

Bound to be. Every other change made in the last 4 years has been a disaster

Doesn't sound like the RMA refresh will do much to address housing supply. Probably a good time to think about increasing your property portfolio as the risk of regulation abates.

Don't worry the national policy statement on urban development, already in force, will help supply in a big way. People are only starting to wake up to it's significance.

NPS-UDC is a dead end. Predominantly it is designed to allow intensification of development. The simple fact however is that we won't have European style cities because New Zealand has a population density of about 18 people per square kilometer and not 250+ people per square kilometer as Western Europe has. The other thing is that we have a seismic risks to manage whereas they can do high-rise with a free hand.

Lets see. The Unitary Plan increased the amount of multi-unit dwellings being built and the NPS-UD has taken this another step.

We don't have to. It means we can have multi-story development along transport corridors.

What we don't have is the expertise at building quality high-rise that isn't 2x the cost of a stand-alone townhouse for the same floor area, or building them in a way that means they don't leak. Until we see those things change, Kiwis will probably be apprehensive.

Its'capacity constraints as much as anything

There was some attempt to address this with a section on the responsiveness to "significant development capacity" (e.g. housing estates) however there where no limitations on how onerous councils could be in imposing limitations so as a developer you'd be taking the risk that council just buried you.

The other thing is that I think that councils have until 2024 to implement most measures so it'll be a long time before any impact is felt.

Plan changes have to be notified next year. Hence all the media starting to come out on the big intensification plans for Wellington and Auckland.
Once the plan changes are notified there will be quite a lot of weight on the new rules, given that they are dictated by a national policy statement and there is limited scope for changes.
I think you are underestimating the impact of this. I think it will be significant, although I don't think it will do much for affordability. But it's going to result in a lot more apartment and townhouse development in locations near train stations and centers.
It will be the Unitary Plan on steroids.
It's also likely to give property prices another nudge higher...

Link to the exposure draft is broken.

Fixed. Sorry about that. 

Do I see a TOW return to grass huts?

More bureaucratic doublespeak. Says a lot but says nothing.

Full of lofty goals but nothing on how it's going to happen.

If the further proposed intensification of inner Auckland is a result of this then we're stuffed.

Water and waste won't cope neither will roads hospitals schools etc.

How do you think the infrastructure is coping out West and down South, which is rapidly becoming a congested mess with all of these problems and none of the Link buses or walking/cycling bits the inner city suburbs who refuse to intensify benefit from?

Out of sight, out of mind, I guess?

First draft

yes , it is bound to get worse as it goes through the stages.

I have had a read and I think the way it is constructed is quite shambolic.

Parker's cognitive-dissonance boils down to the fact that the projected sprawl is into 'the environment', and requires the services of 'the environment' for both the build, and its ongoing maintenance.

He's attempting a 'have the cake and eat it too', and there is less and less remaining cake, with ever-more seated around the table. And the fridge is on the blink. The RMA was indeed deficient, bet even that wasn't deficient-enough to accommodate GROWTH within a finite system. So now he's trying to tighten controls in 'the unbuilt environment' while relaxing controls in the built. But allowing the latter to encroach on the former......

Better, would be a series of threshold-counts for the 3 Resource-types: Finite, Renewable and Sink. That should include offshoring, or it's meaningless. After that, let anything happen. The reality of complying with non-reduction of those 3 - and it means nothing more than being sustainable - is so much less than we're doing now, that 'our economy' will cease to exist. Which means all derivative bets are off, too. Like 'work' and 'income'. And need for infrastructure....

How is it that a society, this far down the rabbit-hole, has 'not a moment to think about stopping​ ...'

I sat across a cafe table from him perhaps 13 years ago, heard him say "I can't believe" - and knew that that was indeed his problem. He believes.... I guess he's also hamstrung by a completely false societal narrative, held collectively in the heads he need to vote for him. This is 100% doomed to fail, via lack of scoping the problem. It is also odd-on to be overtaken by events; as you'd expect of any attempt to redress the problems of exponential growth, heading into the last possible doubling-time.

The new RMA is Pro Development and has a few more Maori words in it and speeds up the processes involved for less cost to Developers.

Have I missed anything?

That is kind of it in a nutshell. Nowhere near as profound as D. Parker is alluding to.
Although introducing more in the way of quantified biophysical limits is a good thing.

The [Climate Adaptation Act] will address complex issues (including compensation) around managed retreat from areas at risk of the effects of climate change.

If you look at the coast road out to Eastbourne today - it's a whole suburb that might need "compensation" for retreat in the future. I just do not see how this type of nationally prescribed compensation could ever be funded.

'compensation' and 'funding' aren't the issue; displacement is.

That goes for whether it's urban into farm, farm into biodiversity, retreaters into somewhere-else.

Funding and compensation are words from an era when we thought there was endless 'else'.

Indeed, displacement is the core issue - the world over. All the more reason why paying folks for for 'had to be' abandoned land and assets is a pie in the sky idea. The 300m2 home on the 1000m2 plot of land just plain old won't be able to be replaced/replicated.

Weve had warnings for 40 years, should have started acting 20 years ago , more fool us.

This policy dovetails in perfectly with the three ways water 'commodification' policy. NZ Inc up for a Fire Sale! John Key would be creaming himself!
This BS 3 Waters Plan is the first step in the Privatisation of Water and more importantly its infrastructure by the Government. Once they have ownership and control. They will have to 'Tender for Partners' to foot the $120b-$185b bill! Which we all know will blow out to $500b over the 30-year plan. Under the CPTPP NZ Inc will be on the block, up for a 'Fire Sale!'