The Press

RMA should be scrapped and replaced, says working group

- Thomas Coughlan

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 working group appointed by Environmen­t Minister David Parker to look at the RMA.

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

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).

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

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

Each plan would be prepared by representa­tives of regional councils and territoria­l authoritie­s, and representa­tives of mana whenua.

There will also be regional spatial strategies, under the SPA. These plans would look ahead 30 years and define areas that should be developed and areas that should be protected.

The 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.

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

With a week until Parliament dissolves for the election, the Government won’t commit to deciding which parts of the report it will act on, although Parker said he expected that political parties would use the report to develop RMA policy for the campaign.

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

The proposal is similar to one

put forward by National leader Judith Collins, who held the party’s RMA reform portfolio for most of its 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.’’ She said National would swiftly repeal the RMA if it won the 2020 election.

Meanwhile, business, infrastruc­ture and farming groups have welcomed the new report.

Peter Silcock, chief executive of Civil Contractor­s New Zealand, said there was definitely room for improvemen­t. Focusing more on regional planning, so projects didn’t face a clash of rules in different locations, had a lot of merit, he said.

The Employers and Manufactur­ers Associatio­n embraced the report, saying the act was clearly no longer ‘‘fit for purpose’’.

The country’s body for planners said there was general consensus that change was needed, especially when it came to things such as managed retreats from flood-prone areas.

‘‘National leadership on managed retreat is essential and should not be left to local government to try and resolve,’’ Karyn Sinclair, chair of the New Zealand Planning Institute, said.

The institute also strongly supported streamlini­ng and reducing costs for small to medium-sized projects.

BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope said the 500-page report needed going through in detail but it held some promise for helping to improve an at times ‘‘difficult, costly and uncertain’’ consent process.

Federated Farmers agreed that the RMA was ‘‘broken’’ but said it was not sure why the Government was still pushing ahead with changes to the existing act.

‘‘The RMA has become unwieldy and cripplingl­y expensive. It creates huge hurdles for developmen­t and economic wellbeing, and struggles to provide the environmen­tal outcomes everyone wants, including addressing cumulative effects,’’ said the group’s resource management spokespers­on, Karen Williams.

Water storage, and work such as restoratio­n and enhancemen­t of wetlands, were just examples of environmen­tal win-wins impeded by the RMA as it was, she said.

Williams said Federated Farmers’ preference was for the legislatio­n to stay in one statute.

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 ?? STUFF ?? The group that reviewed the RMA was appointed by Environmen­t Minister David Parker.
STUFF The group that reviewed the RMA was appointed by Environmen­t Minister David Parker.

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