Amendments to the Resource Management Act 1991 look set to be passed next month, after two years of delays.
The Maori Party has struck a deal with the National Party to give the support needed to pass the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill 2015, intended to streamline planning and consent laws.
The agreement follows a tug-of-war between National’s coalition partners, all of which have stipulated different conditions under which they would support the Bill.
National last year struck a deal with the Maori Party agreeing to include provisions that would give iwi a greater role in the consenting process. Yet the Maori Party wanted the Government to go further and scrap amendments that would give government ministers powers to override decisions.
UnitedFuture and ACT, hours before the deal was announced on Thursday afternoon, presented the Prime Minister with a letter saying they too wanted amendments giving ministers powers to override local plans to be scrapped. However they also wanted the proposed additional iwi consultation requirements to go.
While it isn’t yet clear how far National has bent to win support from the Maori Party, the Maori Party is confident the agreed RMA amendments better balance “development and kaitiakitanga” [guardianship].
“The Maori Party recognises the importance to New Zealand of increasing housing supply and the essential role that the RMA plays in supporting development in the areas where it is needed most i.e. Auckland and Christchurch. However this should not be at the detriment to this country’s natural and cultural taonga,” it said.
“We’ve worked hard on the outcomes to reach an agreement that we are satisfied with,” Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said.
Questioned by ACT Party leader David Seymour in Parliament, Environment Minister Nick Smith said: “I’ve sought to get the support of all the government support parties. The difficulty is that ACT has said the Bill does not go far enough, the UnitedFuture party has been concerned that the reforms go too far. As a consequence we have negotiated in good faith with the Maori Party.
“We have a good Bill - the most substantive reforms to the RMA in 25 years. And if actually, we want more houses built, we want more jobs, we want better environmental control, then parties will support that Bill.”
ACT leader David Seymour, earlier in the day said: “We know that the Maori Party is using its negotiating position to demand concessions that National would never usually give.”
UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne added: “The Resource Management Act (RMA) already provides strong protections for Maori interests.
“The principles of the Act, which I have spent years defending from change, provide for recognition of Iwi and Hapu in the planning process and the principle of kaitiakitanga remains a guiding part of decisions.”
Reiterating issues they raised with the Government a year ago, ACT and UnitedFuture also requested the Government amend the RMA to “recognise property rights”.
“Property rights are undermined under the current law and the Government’s current proposals do nothing to fix this. The rights of property owners must be recognised in law,” Seymour said.
The provisions in the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill include:
- National planning standards to reduce complexity and cost
- Streamlined planning process to improve responsiveness
- Discretion for councils to exempt an activity from consents
- Strengthening of requirements to manage natural hazard risks
- New 10-day consent category for minor activities
- New requirements for council to free up land for housing
- New provisions to enable stock exclusion from waterways
- New provisions requiring decommissioning plans for offshore platforms
- More generous compensation for land required for public works
- Better alignment with other Acts like Reserves, Conservation and EEZ
- Collaborative planning process to encourage community-led solutions
- Improved Maori participation arrangements