Otago Daily Times
Fears local knowledge will be lost
RMA reform: Southern mayors
SOUTHERN mayors fear local knowledge could be lost in proposed new reforms of the Resource Management Act.
‘‘To introduce one size fits all across the wider region will, I suspect, mean one size fits Queenstown, not Clutha,’’ Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan said, after considering yesterday’s announcement of a comprehensive overhaul of the oftcriticised 30yearold RMA.
Three replacement Acts are to be drafted, and the plan is to have them passed by 2023.
The first, and main, law change will be a Natural and Built Environments Act, governing land use and environmental regulation.
A Strategic Planning Act to put in place a longterm regional planning philosophy, and a Climate Change Adaptation Act would follow, Environment Minister David Parker said.
Under the proposed regime, 100plus RMA council and regional planning documents would be reduced to about 14.
While southern local body leaders yesterday agreed reform of the RMA was necessary, they were worried.
Mr Cadogan said the loss of autonomy was his main worry.
‘‘The loss of our fundamental advantage is of concern and, I hope, will be given due consideration in the new legislation.’’
His concerns were echoed by Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher, who also feared for the future of local decisionmaking.
‘‘The indication is that they won’t be involving communities as they develop this legislation and that really does go against a democratic process.’’
The law change could squander the Waitaki District Council’s work on the district plan, due to be released in a few months. ‘‘It’s a lot of wasted effort. ‘‘With the changes, it may be that we’ve spent millions of dollars and get very little result for that.’’
Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult said the RMA had become unworkable.
He believed more was being done to address issues concerning housing affordability and supply locally than a new Act would do.
‘‘But, depending on what’s contained in the Act that is finally agreed, I would hope that it is a further positive.’’
Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins said in an email statement the most significant piece of legislation, the Climate Change Adaptation Act, had the fewest details provided.
‘‘The sooner we know more about how Government plans to deal with this issue, in a planning context, the better,’’ Mr Hawkins said.
While there was value in considering the impacts of development at a regional scale, Mr Hawkins felt there was a risk if the decisions made did not align with the aspirations of districts across a region.
Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan also questioned the addition of regional entities.
‘‘The regional overview comes as a surprise and I can’t see what benefits would be gained other than adding another level of bureaucracy.’’
Invercargill Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt said, ‘‘Invercargill City Council still has nearly two years to consider the proposed changes and we await further government announcements of its plans in more detail.’’
Otago Regional Council chairman Andrew Noone said the RMA was a first generation plan, had ‘‘done its bit’’, and it was time for new, modern planning legislation.
A more centralised approach had advantages as tasks such as water management and environmental standards were national.
‘‘There are local differences though . . . I don’t know if this will happen but it potentially takes away the locals in decision making.
‘‘Clearly you are required to have appropriately qualified people to make decisions, but providing those local interests are taken seriously.’’