Resource Management Act to be scrapped

Full story and audio from interview here:

The Resource Management Act, one of New Zealand’s most controversial laws, looks set to be scrapped and replaced with two separate pieces of legislation to streamline development.

That’s the advice of a Government group appointed by Environment Minister David Parker to look at the RMA.

It was charged with working out a way to make our resource management laws encourage development while protecting the environment, and fostering engagement with Maori.

The report recommends repealing the RMA and replacing it with two different laws: a Natural and Built Environments Act (NBEA) and a Strategic Planning Act (SPA).

A review of the RMA has recommended ditching the law entirely.
A review of the RMA has recommended ditching the law entirely.

The biggest single change would be a proposal for each region in the country to put forward a combined development plan, consolidating the patchwork of local plans put up by councils throughout the country.

There are more than 100 policy statements and plans put up by local authorities, the new regime would shrink this number to just 14 combined plans.

Each plan would be prepared by representatives of regional councils and territorial authorities, and representatives of mana whenua. These plans would look ahead 30 years and define areas that should be developed and areas that should be protected.

This report says this would help to select areas suitable for intense development and infrastructure, while also protecting places unsuitable for development.

It also says this will lead to fewer resource consent applications, thanks to clearer guidance in plans and less uncertainty between the overlapping functions of regional councils and territorial authorities.

The group was appointed by Environment Minister David Parker.
The group was appointed by Environment Minister David Parker.

The RMA has been accused of holding up development in New Zealand, by making it too difficult to consent new buildings. This has had the effect of pushing up house prices.

With just two weeks left of Parliament, the Government won’t commit to deciding what parts of the report it will act on, although Parker said he expected political parties would use the report to develop RMA policy for the campaign.

“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,” Parker said.

He said the Labour party backed repealing the RMA and replacing it with two new laws.

The NBEA would take a “substantially different” approach from the RMA.

The report says this would focus on enhancing the quality of the environment, housing and achieving positive outcomes to support the wellbeing.

It says the RMA has focused too narrowly on managing the negative impacts of development rather than directing development to more positive outcomes.

The SPA would streamline planning across New Zealand by rolling together big legislative decisions from some of New Zealand’s most important pieces of planning legislation, the Local Government Act, the Land Transport Management Act and the Climate Change Response Act.

The group also proposed a third law, which would deal directly with the implications of climate change.

This would be called the Migrated Retreat and Climate Change Adaptation Act. This would allow authorities to change land uses to take into account the effects of climate change and build infrastructure to mitigate its effects.

It would also establish a distinct fund, paid for by central and local government contributions, that would help cover the cost of steps taken to address the effects of climate change.

The proposal is similar to one put forward by National leader Judith Collins, who held National’s RMA reform portfolio for most of the party’s time in Opposition.

In a statement, Collins declared victory.

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

She said National would swiftly repeal the RMA if it wins the 2020 election.

“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,” Collins said.

Parker shot back at Collins’ claims, noting National had failed to substantially reform the RMA during its time in government.

”After 9 years of making the RMA worse when they were in government I don’t think they’re in a position to preach,” Parker said.

ACT party leader David Seymour said that his party had long campaigned to replace the RMA.

He said National should have reformed the RMA when it was in government.

“When I was first elected to Parliament, ACT and National had 61 votes. National would not commit to RMA reform, preferring instead to keep the Māori Party happy,” Seymour said.

“The 900-page RMA is the biggest barrier to growth in New Zealand.

“ACT has campaigned for years to replace it, but the major parties have given us working groups and vague plans,

“Resource management reform must be a top priority for the next government.

“New Zealand desperately needs workable resource management law based on private property rights,” Seymour said.