The first steps in the Government's plans to reform the RMA will be to reverse some of the reforms introduced by National last year

The Government has announced a two-step process to reform the Resource Management Act.

Environment Minister David Parker said it would begin by reversing some of the changes made last year by the previous National-led Government.

That would include repealing measures that prevent public notifications and appeals by applicants and submitters in residential and subdivision consent applications.

Parker said proposed residential developments near existing facilities such as ports, airports, quarries and electricity networks could have significant impacts on existing operators and their future development options.

"Airports have recently highlighted the need to protect air corridors," he said

"They need to be able to participate. So do others." 

Parker also said the country's largest subdividers had lost their appeal rights against unreasonable conditions imposed by councils.

Another change, which Parker said had been recommended by regional councils, would allow them to upgrade groups of consents in line with updated standards.

"This will help speed the cleaning up of our rivers, which otherwise can be delayed for decades,"  he said.

The Government will also remove the broad regulatory power of the Minister of the Environment to override councils, which was also introduced last year, and replace it with a narrower regulation-making power that could support urban development.

Parker said a Bill proposing changes that could be made straight away would be introduced to Parliament early next year and the public would be able to make submissions through the Select Committee process.

Stage two of RMA reform would be a more comprehensive review covering areas such as urban development, climate change, and freshwater management.

That is also expected to get underway next year.

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56 Comments

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Dear Government,
Hurry up with the 2nd review.
The high immigration rate and the way the RMA is implemented are major reasons for the massive land price increases NZ has seen.
The land market needs to be able to respond much more elastically to demand.

You don't understand ... labour want more meddling and rules... add the greens... it will become much harder to rezone anything for housing as they power the Nimby's to stop anything and everything. That's why nats then labour (and repeat every 9 years...) over time always means nz house prices keep rising.

Why are we reading the Government to mean Labour.
This is a coalition government and the Green Party will be having a big influence and this won't favour development.
Labour paid dearly for NZF support so I suspect that Labour will be bending over backwards to accommodate the Greens.

Ah ! but Jacinda makes a wonderful mother
Chill out
Coalition is doing fine
Have you forgotten who filled Auckland with foreigners overburdening all services ?
National

And the COL are continuing the tradition, despite being elected on promises to radically cut immigration.

Ah NorthernLights
As KiwiChas says COL have done little to address high levels of immigration (Winston with xenophobic tendencies was most likely to do so but happy to be bought off with generous budget for regional development especially NF favoured Northland and horse racing amongst other things).

Not just high levels of immigration (not being addressed by COL) but also shortage of land being made available due to restrictive planning regulations plus a very slow, slow consent process.
The later two unlikely to be addressed by COL RMA legislation with a Green bent.
Unfortunately not too many Aucklanders seemed chilled out with current situation relating to RMA and I dont see things look like getting better.

Ah, however the Greens greatest legacy so far looks to be getting rid of plastic bags, creating future concerns over energy supplies and security and possible legalising marijuana so they seemed pretty chilled out. .

If anyone wanted to fact check that here's the Green's housing policy - https://www.greens.org.nz/page/housing-policy not hard to find. If you combine the words "Green's", "housing" and "policy" Google will do the rest for you...

One line from which - "Develop a National Policy Statement on housing to streamline consent processes and incorporate sustainability standards."

Here’s to another 9 years of RMA reforms.

Nah, it will progress quickly I hope, as EDS (Environmental Defence Society), the Law Commission and others have been chipping away at considerations for major reform for quite some time. In other words, much background work has been done.

http://www.eds.org.nz/our-work/media/media-statements/media-statements-2...

Planner?

Yes. Working in academia across both planning and environmental management disciplines. I also do advocacy planning work.

That experience in particular, has given me first hand experience of the on-the-ground detail of the myriad of problems of the current planning system. I suspect that there is no other statute in NZ that has been amended so often and for which there exists such an extensive amount of case law.

The way planning has evolved and is now practiced is dominated by lawyers. It's so bad, I often wonder whether that was an original intent (given it was largely written by lawyers), but I doubt even Sir Geoffrey Palmer would have envisaged it would ever get this complicated or this bad.

Time for repeal and replacement is long overdue.

So how would that change Kate? Are there going to be no appeal avenues, more permitted activities? Processes need to be made simpler and or less restrictive for some of the above not to have happened

I'm not really doing it (i.e., the reform considerations) justice in providing simple answers but (in order), I would generally say public participation avenues will remain strong/be strengthened - yes, there are likely to be more permitted activities (particularly in the urban/built environment) - and yes, simplifying common considerations/processes is a major objective/focus (a lot of work being done on integration in this regard).

But, these are just my current interpretations/generalizations and that really doesn't do justice to the detailed work already done as well as the ongoing considerations;

http://www.eds.org.nz/our-work/rm-reform-project/

I worked directly on the last round of RMA reforms. Certainly agree that repeal and replacement is long overdue. This being said, I get the feeling that we would disagree on what the replacement should look like!

Why do you say that - what do you think the replacement should look like?

I have a list as long as my arm, but thankfully my policy wonk days are behind me now so I don’t live and breath this stuff.

For a start I’d scrap the Environment Court and go back to the Planning Tribunal. Something far less litigious, closer to the Planning Inspectorate in the UK would be better in my view. Complete re-think of the notification process. Again, something like the UK’s system would be better. Raft of changes to appeals and the decision-making process to make Councils less risk averse. Complete rethink of overall broad judgement and environmental bottom lines. Revert the designation process back to what was intended, current process id fraught, particularly for transport infrastructure. Fundamental changes to Regional Council's ability to remove existing use rights in certain circumstances.

I can't fault any of those points!!!! I suspect a lot of the problems started with that overall broad judgment ruling - I wrote a paper on it once - but that was a long time ago!

Maybe we wouldn’t disagree on that much after all, who knows!

Yes the system is far too litigious. The system needs to change to lessen the legal nonsense that dominates the system.

Oh cripes, a UK planner.

Yesssss building houses in the UK is soooooo easy. NOT.

Kate. Anything developed by Sir Geoffrey was always going to be ponderous and useless. Never heard a practical thing come out of his mouth.

Couldn't disagree more - in my opinion, the most intellectual structural reformer in matters of government/governance that NZ has ever, ever seen.

The concept of a single legislative instrument to deal with all natural and physical resources (aside from minerals) - utilizing an effects-based management approach was revolutionary at the time. The implementation of the RM Act was abysmal - and instead of providing the regulators with funding and assistance - Government (of the big 'G' sort) sat on the sidelines and sniped at the planning profession, just like everyone else.

And then came the amendments, followed by the amendments, followed by the amendments, followed by the amendments, ditto, ditto, ditto, ditto, ditto.... not to mention the case law.

Sir Geoffrey wasn't responsible for any of that. National brought it into force - and National failed to support its implementation properly.

Looking forward to yet another protracted and fuzzy review of RMA. If Labour has the stomach they’ll go in and unceremoniously hack it to pieces in spite of their coalition partners. It will be an interesting aside to watch how it is led but I suspect that many millions of tax dollars will serve to feed an already multi headed and tentacled behemoth.I for one am hoping that Labour’s think tank didn’t waste all their time in their years of political wilderness and actually thought this one through. Let’s hope that our Jacinda of Arc has had more than visions in the last wee while

The ‘housing crisis’ aside this one is clearly a public policy crisis in response to a clearly poorly thought out and especially now, more than ever, in light of the first ‘crisis’ a hopelessly outmoded and disfunctional and defunct document that has most notably allowed regional authorities to waste untold expenditure and time with very little accountability. And that’s being charitable.

Funny thing is I see the RMA as being purpose built by National (Simon Upton MP who sponsored the original bill) to protect the land values of the landed gentry by making it near on impossible for anyone else to get in on developing land. Although the gentry decry it they actually love the RMA because its keeping the rest of us under heel...

I would love to see NZ First given the role of rewriting the RMA from a clean slate. First outcome would be, that RMA reforms are based on one law for all rather than the hugely growing preferential rights for iwi resulting in to much influence over decisions like consenting etc.

"Homelessness in a land of plenty, the premier symbol of inequality….. The easiest choice would have been to commit to a slightly modified status quo….. instead we chose the harder path of change….. " Winston Peters reflecting on the election 2017.

Which led to the Speech from the Throne -where the Governor General read out Jacinda Ardern's coalition government's policy reform agenda a year ago in November 2017.

The housing related parts are transcribed here.
https://medium.com/land-buildings-identity-and-values/the-speech-from-th...

The following promises have not yet been implemented.

"This government will take steps to improve our resource management system, with better spatial planning and better enforcement."

"This government will remove the Auckland urban growth boundary and free up density controls."

"New developments, both in Auckland and the rest of New Zealand, will be able to be funded through innovative new financing methods like infrastructure bonds."

Yeah and concrete over even more good growing land - insane!

And the reason the government has not gone hard on removing density restrictions is??? Given the big investments on rapid transit this government is making it is stupidity not to relax planning rules that prevents Auckland adding more housing around these transit corridors. Not doing this just means housing where people want to live is more expensive than it should be.

And the reason the government has not gone hard on removing density restrictions is??

Votes/voters I assume.

Stop importing bloody people, do we really need to keep concreting over the land and cutting it to ribbons for new highways? I say no.

I'll agree when they finally get on with the new Highway to replace the Manawatu Gorge.

I'll agree when they finally get on with the new Highway to replace the Manawatu Gorge.

Given that this is the foundation-stone piece of legislation we live - and can die - by, we need a higher level of debate.

Parker is making all the right noises, although the 2nd move is a bit far off - we needed to be there now.

Ultimately, the open-slather country-side chewing resource-consuming population-increasing regime was either going to collapse, or we were going to be mature enough to control ourselves. Blathering on about anti-growth has to be ignored from here on. The ones we have to have a discussion with are the ones who think we can morph seamlessly to renewable energy, while still continuing to sprawl. Their hearts might be in the right place, their heads have a way to go.

I've often thought we need to start that debate by discussing belief systems - that is:

Do you believe that the existing stock of natural capital must be maintained and enhanced, because the functions it performs cannot be duplicated by manufactured capital...

OR

Do you believe that manufactured capital of equal value can take the place of natural capital, because technology and human ingenuity will exceed the limits imposed by nature.

For the first its not about belief as you can provide facts based on Math and science to support its case.

The second seems to be indeed a belief system in that "Math and Science" will provide while in the same breadth rejecting the existing Math and science that tells us NO.

But another perspective would suggest that many 'facts' are contestable as much of the science you might be relying on to form your belief system is based on scientific modelling which, because of its very nature, has to make certain assumptions, and the choice of the assumptions adopted influence the modeled output.

Which is why I advocate so strongly for us/society to explore our belief systems/morals/ethics first - openly, transparently and in detail - as opposed to simply outright dismiss the other side of the argument based on 'facts'.

This is an interesting thought-piece;

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/terry-newell/humility-and-hubris-in-sc_b_...

Then we'll disagree. You are dismissing all facts because you find one "fact" actually isnt ergo all facts are not facts because one fact isnt, this is clearly rubbish.

Modelling is different again, however I'd rather believe in a scientifically derived model especially if I understand its limitations rather than relying on praying, big difference on successful likelihood of outcome.

Morals and ethics are based on a societal choice. Today for instance a "grown" man (say 20) having sex with an under-age (say 14) girl is (criminally) wrong. Yet when our species was almost extinct and the average survival of a human (was I believe) down to 20 years we as a species may well have died out as a consequence of that in-action.

The point is here is Maths and science state physical limits of the universe these cannot change only maybe our understanding of some of them improve "belief systems/morals/ethics" are generally not based on any such fact but choices.

Personally I think we as a species face extinction if we carry on as is before this century is out, ie its time to act on the information, data and facts that we have before us and not moralise on it.

There's a lot in that that I'd like to discuss - but somewhat embarrassingly, I've gotta go to a fashion show.

I think there's a lesson in that in itself - we will all keep living they way we are living, until we can't. And I don't disagree with you that that time will come.

Kate - it's not a matter of belief, and is confusing the issue to suggest it is so.

The fact is that we have increased rates of manufacturing and of technologial development exponentially, and all through that process the draw-down increased exponentially too. You only have to ask what it was supporting?

Can you de-couple? Not on the evidence to date, not with known technology (both with the proviso that less of us would have more per-head options.

Just re-read Shaw's 'Everybody's political what's what? Belief is indeed a human failing......

"The fact is that we have increased rates of manufacturing and of technologial development exponentially, and all through that process the draw-down increased exponentially too."

Yea. But the point is that the rate of technology growth has outpaced the growth of finite resource use. Our existence today is evidence of this - hence why a Malthusian perspective is completely wrong.

"Can you de-couple? Not on the evidence to date."
What evidence says that? If anything the literature is pretty clear that energy usage growth is declining in economic wealth. Even (basic) graphs you presented in an article a while back tended to highlight this relationship, if I remember correctly.

Actually no, as we grow faster so to we have increased finite resource use. To base the dismissal of Malthusian based on this faulty assumption is simply incorrect.

There is no evidence that a de-coupling has occured. "energy usage growth is declining in economic wealth" Some claims that either dont understand the data or mis-represent it. You know its easy to claim a bunch of 1s and 0s is bigger as this is not based on any resource you can use them to make a claim on. So someone doubles the value in 1s and 0s of your of your house? and you are more "wealthy"? not when you try and cash it in.

"Actually no, as we grow faster so to we have increased finite resource use. "
No we haven't. Resource usage per person has declined significantly. Innovation has made our cars go further, our plants produce more food, and our electricity flow further.
You cannot deny that.

"There is no evidence that a de-coupling has occured"
https://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/indicators/total-primary-energy-...
Use Google scholar and trace all the follow on citations.

*...because technology and human ingenuity will extend our abilities within the limits imposed by nature.

Good critical thinking - this is the kind of open sort of discussion that needs to take place in such a debate.

I agree. The debate needs to be had.

However, it always comes back to the primitive notion that because the world is finite, growth in living standards must be. As steven says below; maths and science prove this. And, PDK's favourite buzz phrase is that economists don't believe in a finite planet.

To date I am yet to meet one economist who believes in infinite resources (despite what bloggers may tell you). So this should be a pretty clear signal that your understanding of how living standards can, in theory, grow in a sustainable manner must be incorrect. Until the economic theory is more widely understood, I doubt there can be any traction on the debate. It'll always be a he said, she said, while ignoring the historical evidence that undoubtedly highlights that the Kremer view of the world is more correct than the Malthusian.

Economics works exclusively in the sphere of finite resources - It is defined as exactly this; the science of studying the allocation of scarce resources. It never assumes that we can exceed resource limits - hence my correction of your original statement. Instead that we can grow sustainably as we asymptotically approach those limits, through the use of technology primarily derived through increases in human capital.

However, it always comes back to "but the maths says it's impossible". And there in lies the issue - the maths of the physicist ignores the maths of the economist. Whereas the opposite is not true. The economist understands the physical limits and augments them with a trading/pricing mechanism that decouples wealth from an inherent resource. That means that a unit of productivity is no longer tied directly to one unit of resource - the key distinction that the other side cannot reconcile and always come back to.

The economist understands the physical limits and augments them with a trading/pricing mechanism that decouples wealth from an inherent resource.

Yes, I understand the concept. But pricing mechanisms (as a basis of solving human/resource problems) are problematic in that price/money is a notional concept in itself. Not sure I put that correctly, but my point being that we live in a world where someone will be able to and will indeed pay the market price for the last fish in the sea. To me, money has no real meaning anymore - it too is a 'belief system'.

If you are the fisherman and just caught the last fish, would you sell it for gold? For myself I'd eat that last fish and watch the someone starve to death and walk over and well, what would be the point of even picking the gold up? its expending energy to do so.

Frankly the belief that the economist understands the physical limits isnt true in a practical sense. ie the economists models are simplified ignoring such to keep their "math" managable"

At a human level, as an example here we see 7.5billion people mostly acting like we are not on a finite planet, even thought we are, a clear disconnect from reality.

All "lifestyle" is reliant on extraction from a finite resource and energy it is that simple.

"the economists models are simplified ignoring such to keep their "math" managable""

Can you give us an example of this, please.

From my point of view, utter rubbish. The claim is un-supported, yet you seem to think its "good critical thinking"? I come back to Asimov I guess.

The claim is unsupported - ah, steven... release yourself from the pressures of positivism. Dare to imagine.

I recall as a child being dragged to the library without fail every Thursday after school to return three editions and collect three editions of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

My mother (the most avid reader I've ever known) read only two genres - history and science fiction.

Kate. After a 2 second inner gut search my vote would be. ".........the existing stock of natural capital must be maintained and enhanced, because the functions it performs cannot be duplicated by manufactured capital...."
Thanks for the voting opportunity. It's interesting.

Good gut feeling - that's the definition of 'strong sustainability' - the alternate is referred to as 'weak sustainability'.

"The ones we have to have a discussion with are the ones who think we can morph seamlessly to renewable energy, while still continuing to sprawl. Their hearts might be in the right place, their heads have a way to go."

That would seem to be the Green party and most liberal "thinkers"

"continuing to sprawl. " that is the rest.